Review: Beauty! Glamour! Fame! (The Cafe Debris Company / Merrill Pye Productions)


Venue: The Imperial Hotel (Erskineville NSW), Thursdays Jun 5 – Jul 3, 2014
Playwright: Brent Thorpe
Director: Brent Thorpe
Cast: Brent Thorpe, Zan Cross
Image by Brett Boardman

Theatre review
Saying that Brenda Trollope is larger than life is an understatement. She is rambunctious to the extreme and fervently demented, with a penchant for sharing too much, and at too much detail. She is a creation of Brent Thorpe, who is a performer with a keen sense of subversive humour, and an even keener urge to entertain.

In Beauty! Glamour! Fame!, Trollope addresses her audience directly, divulging tales of debauchery, and enacting outrageous highlights from her colourful existence. References to Australian culture of the last forty years abound. There is no question that the lady has been around the block more than once or twice. Thorpe’s performance is energetic and frenzied, owing more to vaudeville than to Stanislavski. His approach focuses on timing and presence, without letting the idea of emotional truth get in the way of a good tall tale. There is one scene, however, where Thorpe speaks on a “talkback radio” program as a secondary character Deirdre Flick, and an authenticity in his convictions shines through. In the space of several minutes, he encapsulates all that is disturbing about Australian media and politics today. Deirdre needs her own show.

Zac Cross plays various male characters, providing sturdy support as the reliable sidekick. Thorpe’s nerves can at times be apparent, but Cross seems to take everything in his stride. They are an odd coupling, but nothing in the show is averse to strangeness. It is an eccentric work about an eccentric mind. Trollope is not interested in the deep and meaningful, but she enjoys herself. She does not invest in poignancy, but pulls out all the stops for laughter. There may not be very much love or compassion here, but Trollope’s valour is certainly a thing to behold.