Theatre review: Cry Baby, La Mama

For chic Melburnians who are sad and want to talk about it.

It’s an ambitious decision to request a show be reviewed while it is still in development. On the one hand you could receive quotes and high-star ratings to plaster on posters before the show has even premiered. On the other hand, you risk making a poor impression with a half-baked show. If these outcomes were to sit on a spectrum, Cry Baby would land in the middle. 

Cry Baby was a one-woman cabaret by Isabella Perversi that explored a niche but perfectly realised mid to late-20s experience: that of inner north Melbourne creatives trying to figure out how to live a fulfilling and happy life despite fading dreams and increasing financial woes. For those who sit in this world, there was a comfort in seeing bits of your life reflected back at you. 

Perversi was a confident and engaging performer with some quirky ideas – namely, a lamenting sock puppet sketch. Nothing draws on the heartstrings more than a sad puppet. 

Perversi and her creative team, Fabio Motta and Emma Fawcett, produced a well-paced story that oscillated between autobiographical monologues and varied sketches. This resulted in a strong mix of humour and poignancy. They’ve also a keen eye for lighting, using it to complement said structure via well-placed spotlights. 

Cry Baby clearly needed more development, however, given the show’s abrupt ending that could have done with an extra dose of emotional gravitas, or perhaps recognition that there can’t be a clean three-act storyline because that’s not the way life works – and Perversi is clearly going for vulnerable realism.

But as a performance being staged as part of an “in development” series, it was hardly surprising to find that more work was needed. 

Read: Theatre review: By the Bog of Cats, Irish Club of WA

In any case, Cry Caby was a production for the girlies who take European summers and farm-to-table brunches but can’t find joy in either. 

Cry Baby
La Mama

Co-Devised and Performed by Isabella Perversi
Creative Consultant: Fabio Motta
Dramaturg: Emma Fawcett
Cry Baby was performed from 10-12 September 2023.

Jenna Schroder is an emerging arts critic, with a background in dance and voice, and an organiser at the Media, Entertainment, Arts Alliance. Outside of her union activism, Jenna can be found performing at The Improv Conspiracy, around the Melbourne comedy scene and producing independent work across multiple platforms. Twitter: @jennaschroder00