Walking into the Cremorne Theatre at QPAC for a matinee performance of Polytoxic’s cabaret Dangerous Goods, you will hear Malyangapa and Barkindji musician BARKAA blaring and may instantly muse at what a welcome shift this is from a usual matinee pre-show soundtrack.
Dangerous Goods is a melting pot of circus, burlesque, song, poetry, fire, sequinned costumes and inflatable genitalia welded together boldly as a meditation on danger. As a result, this work is a reclamation of language, gender, body, culture, story and space.
It is unabashed and bold, but expertly manages light and shade, comedy and brevity. Dangerous Goods grabs the audience by the hand proudly exclaiming, ‘We’re in charge now and you will listen’. It encounters little resistance. It is equally a calling out and a calling in – a marker of an ensemble of artists who know exactly what they’re doing. They are confident, charismatic and taking control, which collectively allows the audience to feel safe to go with them. We can ponder Maya Angelou’s words, ‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better’ because now this audience knows better.
Dangerous Goods is femme excellence. It is culturally diverse excellence. It is intersectional excellence. And while it feels pertinent to acknowledge these things because they are all too often deemed “dangerous”, it also feels deeply unnecessary because Dangerous Goods is, simply put, an example of artistic excellence. Artists at the top of their game making art on their terms and excelling.
Comment must be made about directors and co-creators Lisa Fa’alafi and Leah Shelton’s attention to detail in the realisation of theatrical images that are political, deeply aesthetic and hot as hell.
Kalala Sione is captivating, their voice powerful in song and prose, and the ease with which they move from raw honesty to comedic gold is impressive. Bridie Hooper’s deeply felt and connected pieces highlight beautifully the multitudes of femme power, strength and softness. Leah Shelton’s exploration of beauty and body is a searing commentary I found deeply moving.
Mayu Muto’s reimagining of Little Red Riding Hood with a carving knife and a rope is enthralling. Lisa Fa’alafi and Lilikoi Kaos are magnetic powerhouses individually, but the two together as whip cracking floral lasso-wielding Barbie annihilating Polynesian dynamos is my highlight in a show filled with them. Special guest Rina is soulful and deeply embodied in their performance of their original song, ‘Radiating Now’, while Karlee Misi delights with her razor-sharp precision and brilliant satire armed with a tiny pink car and a massive diamanté phone.
For me this work exists at the heart of my own politic. For many in the matinee audience this may not have been the case, but so deft are the Dangerous Goods ensemble in their realisation of the work that they had 60-year-old cargo short-wearing white men up on their feet agreeing to join the revolution on a Saturday afternoon.
The revolution may not be televised, but gosh it works when it’s theatricalised with Polytoxic at the helm. May the revolution continue to look like this, especially in spaces like this. And may Polytoxic not only continue to be programmed in spaces like this but do the programming itself.
Go and join the revolution and see for yourself.
Cremorne Theatre, QPAC
Directed, Created and Conceived by Lisa Fa’alafi & Leah Shelton
Sound Design: Leah Shelton & Lisa Fa’alafi
Sound Editing: Kenneth Lyons, Pataphysics, Lisa Fa’alafi, Leah Shelton, Kim Bowers
Set Design: Lisa Fa’alafi & Leah Shelton in collaboration with Freddy Komp
Lighting Design: Steven May
Production Manager: Freddy Komp
Production/Stage Manager: Winter Cyan
Rigger: Helen Clifford
Costume Design: Lisa Fa’alafi & Leah Shelton
Costume Realisation: Sharon Clarke, Chloe Greaves, Jim Ioannides, Lisa Fa’alafi, Leah Shelton and Jane Shelton
Choreography: Lisa Fa’alafi & Leah Shelton in collaboration with Nerida Matthaei, Alinta McGrady and the cast
Original Song and Spoken Word Composition: Lisa Fa’alafi “Rewind the Current”
Spoken Word: Kalala Sione
Script Writing: Amy Ingram with Lisa Fa’alafi, Leah Shelton & Lilikoi Kaos
Critical feedback: Daniel Evans & Nathan Sibthorpe
Cast: Lisa Fa’alafi, Leah Shelton, Kalala Sione, Lilikoi Kaos, Mayu Muto, Bridie Hooper
Special guest artists: Badassmutha, Ghenoa Gela, Jazida, Karlee Misi, Rina, SOLCHILD
Dangerous Goods will be performed until 4 February 2024.