Theatre review: Wellbless, Theatre Works

Exploring the sickness at the heart of the wellness industry.

Melbourne’s iconic Theatre Works welcomes WellBless to the stage in a premiere season, rebooted after a 2020 season cancellation. Wellness guru, Juniper, hosts an in-person Soul Convergence with her fitness-obsessed sister Ava, where she plans to unveil her cure-all Miracle Tonic. 

But as millions of Instagram followers flock to the convention, there’s a slight mishap. Instafamous cancer-patient and Juniper devotee, Maha, dies onsite. Juniper works to quickly cover her tracks and solicits advice from her team of ‘experts’. Together, they go to extreme lengths to hide the truth. But with the relentless journalist Mindy Flores asking way too many questions, the team struggle to keep it together. 

Written by Debra Thomas and Ella Roth Barton, who star alongside Emily Joy, Joseph Lai, Andrea Mendez and Lauren Steiner, WellBless parodies the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop empire, Belle Gibson’s cancer con and COVID-19 misinformation. It is a timely commentary on the inauthenticity of the wellness industry and how it has thrived on its history of ignoring women. 

The production is a spectacle, filled with pole-dancing, vaginal steaming, changing sets and audience interaction. The cast work well together, Thomas and Barton in particularly create a seamless juxtaposition between the two sisters Juniper and Ava. Lai also stands out, using his long limbs to propel himself across the stage in mystical movements like a shaman. There are moments of overacting and the high energy of the cast at times is uncomfortable, but maybe that’s the point? 

WellBless is chaotic and at times ridiculous, just like the wellness industry it attempts to satire. The production adequately mirrors the current climate and references absurdities in society. Underneath the comedy and disorder is an important message about the dangers of misinformation. 

Theatre Works, St Kilda

Written and created by Debra Thomas and Ella Roth Barton
Directed by Kellie Tori

Cast: Debra Thomas, Ella Roth Barton, Emily Joy, Joseph Lai, Andrea Mendez, Lauren Steiner

Tickets $37.50

WellBless will be performed until 11 December 2021.

Giselle Bueti has written for publications such as The Advertiser, The Adelaide Review, RIP IT UP, BMA magazine and Yewth Mag. Previously, Giselle worked as Arts Editor for The AU Review and Content Growth Editor at ArtsHub. She is based in Melbourne, Victoria.