Courtney Rose Brown
Galathea: Into the Bush is easily one of my favourite shows of the year. Each contribution to the production is exceptional: design, music and performance. Upstil’s direction creates a positive and comfortable environment to engage with the content, without feeling the need to have memorised a long list of terms from Tumblr to enjoy and understand.
Drag Queen, Trivia (Stephii Onassiss) invites us inside, laying down the ground rules of ‘The Bush’ as an open and friendly space. Lucas Neal’s set design is innovative and divine. The Public Trust Building’s Grand hall is an exciting but challenging space to build in..It’s a large space to fill, covered with beautiful moldings, but studded with large pillars and stark concrete floors. Neal knocks it out of the park here. White sheets hang from the ceiling, with lamp shades and hanging plants scattered throughout. Leaves twirl along the pillars around the main performance space. A painted giant blue seashell covers the back wall, connecting to a paddling pool creating Neptune’s Kingdom. Seated among this, the audience feels part of the world and very welcome in the Bush.
Rhythm drives the show (other musicians include Liam Kelly and Vice Cabrera), setting a clear tone for each scene, initiated by the music. A high tempo accompanies the entrances of the nymphs (Meesha Rose-Kipa, Zoe Joblin and Madeleine Warren) and their animal-like movements generate anticipation and excitement. More stylised than anyone else, they move as if they are on the hunt, crouched low, alert and ready to pounce. They are fierce, sexy and strong.
The costumes, by mother and son team Declan and Sharon Callaghan, are flawless. The attention to detail is incredible; each character’s costume crafted with love and care. The nymphs dress in grey, bands of fur circle their arms, claws on their fingers and stripes of dark paint line their face. The look powerful as androgynous hunters. Sassy, powerful Neptune (Daniel Emms) struts about the stage in a beautiful blue glitter beard and sequined pants. His fishing net cape is tangled with rubbish, a moving nod to humanity's lack of care for the environment.
Galathea: into the Bush is theatrical, flamboyant and magical. The message isn’t subtle, as the lovers’ hesitation and exploration of self and each other is under a telescope and examined. It is over the top and stretched out with a lot of questioning directed towards the audience. I, however, absolutely love this! The extended amount of time given to their discovery of sexuality and gender is given patience and time to unravel. I appreciate the care given to their discovery as it is validating.
As the disguised lovers Galathea and Phillida, Tuck and Dekkers-Reihana’s love is palpable; it literally gives me goosebumps. The honesty and vulnerability that the duo bring, is captivating to watch. Both are extremely skilled physical and comedic performers who bring a life force of their own into the space. This highlight the constructs of gender as each try to out do each other with hyper masculine performances, of wide stances and swaggering about.
Multiple beliefs of love and attraction are shared in the show without pushing one agenda. Each character has room to explore and confirm their beliefs. Brigid Costello, the choreographer who also plays Diana, moves with undeniable power with her birdlike movements and intense gaze. Fiercely, they sees their asexuality as a privilege because they does not have to carry the burden of love. The Nymphs question love and their predetermined ideas surrounding when Cupid (Aaron Pyke) comes into play.
Galathea: Into the Bush is fearless in presentation. This show isn’t just for the young people stuck in a “liberal bubble” but for those who want to know more about the conversation surrounding sexuality and gender. We live in a country where hate is still prevalent towards the queer community e.g. Brian Tamaki’s comments about the earthquakes. Galathea: Into the Bush is a counterpoint to that. It is a celebration of representation that empowers and liberates. I leave feeling brave and elated.
I absolutely recommend Galathea: Into the Bush to everyone who is in the LBGTQ community and to everyone who isn’t. The season runs until the 3rd of December at the Public Trust Building on Lambton Quay. In addition to the show, they are facilitating a Rainbow Community space running each day from 1-4pm which is free! For more info check out their Facebook page here: