Leave the kids at home…
By Bradley Storer
This year Trevor Ashley brings his naughty and controversial adults-only pantomime Little Orphan Trashley to town as part of the Melbourne Cabaret Festival. The show, an unofficial rip off of the musical Annie, is the sort of light-hearted family show that you would never bring your kids to.
Rhonda Burchmore as Miss Trannigan, the alcoholic and lascivious matron of the orphanage, effortlessly steals every scene she appears in, boozing, crooning and flashing her fabulous legs to great campy effect. Her songs are overall the best in the show, and an act two duet with Ashley is quite probably the best one of the night. Rhys Bobridge in the role of little Fannie’s pet dog (whose name is unprintable here) combines sex appeal – wait until you see his outfit! – with a cuddliness and comic timing that make his every moment onstage gleefully naughty. His first entrance had the audience in hysterics for what seemed like a full minute!
Gary Sweet gets big laughs as a pajama-clad Prologue introducing us to the story, but as Daddy Warhorse a lot of his lines fall flat. He lacks the singing ability to bring off his musical number in Act One but does a better job in selling a delightfully dirty number in Act Two.
The problem is that the writing and the story are simply not engaging enough to hold the audience’s interest for the length of the show. The best parts (usually involving Burchmore or Bobridge) usually have absolutely nothing to do with the plot, so when Ashley and Sweet step forward to get the story moving again it feels like the laughs cease – in particular, an attempt to integrate recent controversy about child pornography in art into the story comes across as quite creepy (and not in the good way!). The jokes came hard and fast throughout, and there are many up-to-date references (including to Rudd’s recent disposal of Julia Gillard) which is a credit to the creative team in their efforts to keep the script fresh and relevant. However, even with this the success rate is still only fifty-fifty for the entire night, with a few precise zingers as exceptions, despite the commitment of the cast to the material.
Ashley himself does not shine with the glowing stage presence of a star, but seems like a low-key supporting character in the plot – which is hard to understand given he has more stage time, dialogue and songs than anyone in the cast. There was no moment in the show where I felt Ashley was given a chance to show off his full power and range as singer or performer, which was disappointing as in previous works he has been fantastic!
Venue: The Comedy Theatre, 240 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Date: Thurs 4 to Sun 7 July then continuing on after the Festival until Sunday 14 July
Price: A Reserve $75, B Reserve $60
Time: Tue 7:00pm, Wed – Fri 8:00pm, Sat 6.30pm & 9.30pm, Sun 5:00pm
Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com.au , (03) 9299 9800, at the venue