Theatre review: Like a Virgo

Astrology, sexuality and Madonna – this charming stand-up and burlesque show made it through the wilderness of Melbourne Fringe.

According to a very quick Google search, Madonna was born 16 August 1958 at approximately 7.05am.

Looking past the creepiness of some super-fan tracking down the exact, albeit unconfirmed, time of her birth, this apparently makes Madonna’s astrology sign a Leo – confident, ambitious and usually the centre of attention – with a Virgo moon.

Not everyone goes for the ol’ zodiac and the supposed influence of stars and planetary movements on one’s personality. But thankfully Madonna does and, since the pop icon has gone on record saying that she believes in zodiac signs and reads her horoscope every day, Like a Virgo is a fitting and adoring tribute.

To clarify – this recent Melbourne Fringe show is a loving homage to the visage of Madonna, but it’s not a Madonna tribute act. It isn’t just about astrology either (which may be a relief to the sceptics among us).

Brazilian comedian and performer Michele Da Costa presents a range of themes, from astrology and virginity (and whether virginity is even real), to sexuality and queer identity. It’s an assorted chocolate box wrapped in lacy fingerless gloves, big hair and a tulle skirt.

Da Costa, a Virgo herself, is an endearing personality who immediately gets you onside. As a Virgo, she claims to be a self-effacing, overthinking perfectionist. She’s also a ‘virgin’ to the Fringe scene, but you wouldn’t be able to tell if she didn’t inform you herself. For her first ever Fringe show, she has wonderful stage presence – no doubt due to her background as a dancer.

The act is mostly stand-up. She attempts to explore the concept of virginity beyond just the heteronormative definition, and beyond the confines of sex. She asks us to think about how we’re constantly losing various ‘virginities’ each time we have a new experience, such as performing comedy at a festival for the first time in one’s 40s.

This show does suffer from noticeable growing pains. Like a Virgo is marketed as a one-woman show that combines both stand-up and burlesque. The full hour lacks the structure that you would expect from pure stand-up, but also there’s not much burlesque to go by. The two brief moments of burlesque we are treated to are as promising as they are fleeting, and leave us wanting more.

For anyone attending the show for astrology humour, references are limited and basic knowledge is assumed. For Madonna fans, her presence is felt more as a guiding vibe, as opposed to a strong feature of the act (although this writer only has a surface-level knowledge of Madonna, so it’s entirely possible there were niche jokes that went over my head).

Like a Virgo isn’t a typical comedy set. Like Da Costa herself, it’s a charming mess of fun ideas, loosely tied together by threads of pop culture references. It’s more of a collage than a painting. A small room at a Fringe venue is tough at the best of times, even for the most experienced Fringe performer, but Da Costa navigated any awkwardness with a sweetness and charm.

Read: Book review: Staging a Revolution, by Kath Kenny

She leaves us by asking members of the crowd ‘Which virginity are you going to go out and lose?’ Now that Da Costa has officially lost her Fringe virginity, we hope it wasn’t just a one-night stand, and audiences will get to rendezvous with her next year.

Like a Virgo was recently performed at the Melbourne Comedy Festival 2022.