BirthdayIn the foreword to Flips Stage and Screen’s ‘Birthday’, first time playwright, J. Harkness contends ‘The church of globalization and economic rationalism preaches thus: the rich are holy and the poor are sinful’ and that ‘Love is an absolute birth right’. Similarly Sarah Kate begins her Director’s Notes with the following Oscar Wilde quote, ‘The truth is rarely pure and never simple’. In my foreword to this review, the truth is pure and simple – the play is disappointing and does not meet the thematic challenges set by its creators. 

The concept is seemingly clever: explore the notion of the way intimacy is judged by religion through two prostitutes M, (Natalie Eleftheriadis) and Lily, (Fleur Murphy), a priest, Father Phillip (Garry Crole) and a boy who has forgotten how to kiss Joey (Chris Saxon). Yet, the realisation of the concept is empty, not because it is a one-hour piece, but because there is little character development making the message lack penetration and soul.  As a result, the audience does not experience a sense of closure in respect of any of the issues about which the engineers of this play are seeking to make comment. 
M and Lily play the parts of prostitutes without conviction and appear uncomfortable in their costumes comprising of fishnet thigh high stockings, suspender belts, corsets, boy leg panties, frilly knickers and cheap patent leather high heels. This display of discomfort makes it difficult to believe that the prostitutes are the intended voices of dissent. For two ladies in the audience, the language was certainly provocative. The single use of ‘C u next Tuesday’ (as coded by Carrie Bradshaw et al on Sex and the City) cut their evening at the theatre very short. Accordingly, they missed Chris Saxon’s accurate portrayal of a nervous virginal brothel attendee.
The integration of music did however compliment the mood and direction of the dialogue: Kylie Minogue’s ‘Confide in Me’ provided for a mysterious opening. M’s solemn rendition of Happy Birthday to Me as she lights one lonely candle stuck into a chocolate muffin, was also fitting. 

Essentially, the exchanges at Stormy’s Brothel on M and Joey’s birthdays were more like a storm in a tea cup and a case of it’s my party and I will cry if I want to. My wish is that the next Birthday is cause for celebration.    

Flip Stage and Screen in conjunction with Chapel Off Chapel Presents
by J. Harkness

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel | 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran - Melways: 2L J10
Dates: Wed 28th Feb - Sun 11th Mar
Times: 8:00pm shows Wed – Sat, 6:00pm shows Sun
Tickets: $25.00 Full, $15.00 Con
Bookings: (03) 8290 7000

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