Theatre review: Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, fortyfivedownstairs

A night of queer spectacle jam-packed with laughs and all things camp.
Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. Image is a female in long black clothes sweeping another woman in what appears to be pale blue bathers off her feet. They are on a bare stage in front of a curtain.

There’s a buzz on entry to Little Ones Theatre’s production of Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. From the silken pale pink curtains to the thrumming techno music and cabaret-style seating, the creative team signal an incoming pastiche of camp culture. 

This is by far the most rewarding element of the production. Under the helm of Director Stephen Nicolazzo, every member of the creative team weaves reference after reference into writer Charles Busch’s work. There’s B-grade horror film sound bites and lighting, Madonna choreography, silver screen and tawdry Las Vegas set dressings, Marilyn’s white dress and more. 

It’s a feast for the eyes; you could watch the show three times over and still find new homages to the building blocks of camp. Not only that, the anachronistic use of these well-loved clichés through the vignettes of the titular vampires’ relationship is a clever nod to their immortality. The two women, nay succubi, played by Jennifer Vuletic and Artemis Ioannides, are anachronistic themselves as they’re stuck travelling through era after era. 

It’s a strong comedic work, the writing laden with jokes that the cast squeeze every drop out of. The dialogue is witty and full of tongue-in-cheek moments, with one-liners like ‘let me be cheap and degraded, I’m an actress’ getting a particularly strong laugh from the opening night crowd. Vuletic and Ioannides have strong chemistry as the quarrelling vampires, throwing acerbic quips across the stage. 

It seems sacrilegious to critique a work touted as one of the longest running plays in Off Broadway history, but Busch’s narrative arc falls short, relying too much on flippant humour in the moments that matter. Just when the relationship between the two vamps has found its rhythm, the story sweeps through conflict and resolution in a few short lines. So much so that when the lights go out, it seems as if the production is moving to a new vignette rather than closing bows. 

Read: Theatre review: A Very Jewish Christmas Carol, Southbank Theatre

This hurried finish cheapens what is otherwise a stellar production, as it obscures any meaning or emotional oomph that could be drawn from the production. What’s left is a shiny, fun romp through a celebration of all things queer and camp.

Nevertheless, despite the show premiering in 1985, Little Ones Theatre has succeeded in making Vampire Lesbians of Sodom feel in vogue in 2023. 

Vampire Lesbians of Sodom
Director: Stephen Nicolazzo
Writer: Charles Busch
Movement Director: Ash Pike
Set and Costume Designer: Nathan Burmeister
Lighting Designer: Katie Sfetkidis

Lighting Associate: Spencer Herd
Stage Manager: Harry Dowling
Assistant Stage Manager: Finn McLeish
Sound Designer and Composer: Daniel Nixon and Danni Esposito

Cast: Jennifer Vuletic, Artemis Ioannides, Ash Flanders, Zoe Boesen, Brigid Gallacher, Tom Dent and John Marc Desengano, with Marko Pecer, Jasmin Larranaga, Anastacia Barres and Jackie Van LieRop

Tickets: $35-$49

Vampire Lesbians of Sodom will be performed until 3 December 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