Cheeky musical mayhem as celebrities collide
By Christine Moffat
“A hypothetical romp laced with club hits, Europop anthems and moving piano ballads in the style of Mother Monster herself, drawing on themes of hypocrisy, tolerance, censorship and the cult of celebrity, all the while holding its tongue firmly in its cheek.” This extract from the program is an apt description; this is indeed an old-fashioned romp, set in the world of modern notoriety.
The story of Gaga & Assange revolves around the imagined reasoning for the pair’s real meeting at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012. Writer William Hannagan takes this scenario and runs with it to create a stylish mash-up of morals, media and music. At one and a half hours, the show seems a little long, and some of the most elegant plot points appear to be tacked on as an afterthought in the last 25 minutes. That being said, there is a lot to like about this show. Hannagan manages to create a world where the audience doesn’t just accept Gaga and Assange as confidentes, but relishes their stilted frisson.
Laura Raiti and Christopher Runciman are entertaining as the awkward, mismatched lovers with ethics as big as their egos. Both are great comic performers. Runciman is painfully unhip as Assange, the counterbalance for Raiti’s outrageous, over-the-top (and therefore uncannily accurate) Gaga. Raiti’s musical performance was so close to the real thing that it made the original songs seem like Gaga anthems.
The concept and writing were entertaining and unusual, but the script needs a little polishing, as currently it seems to have a natural ending, and then an epilogue. This loosely-defined conclusion is the main flaw in what is otherwise a show with great promise and appeal. The costuming by Hannah Cantwell, Sabella Dsouza and Sooah Jee was fantastic, created character and added to the comedy greatly. Although the staging was basic, it was designed to be versatile and effective. The original songs (Hannagan) were a great addition to the show, and deserve full musical production in any future seasons.
New work can be difficult to review, as it is often raw. It wears its heart of its sleeve, for good or for bad. This is the case with Gaga & Assange: there were a few areas that needed work, but many highlights. Overall, it was fresh, engaging, intelligent and gave the audience a good laugh.
Gaga & Assange was performed on Friday 23rd & Saturday 24th August at The Guild Theatre, Univeristy of Melbourne as part of MUDfest 2013.