It’s no secret that The Hayes is one of the driving forces behind the boom of independent theatre in Australia, and it’s shows like Sideshow that remind audiences exactly how special this development is to the Australian musical theatre industry.
Sideshow is a production based on the lives of the Hilton sisters – the conjoined twins who took Vaudeville by storm in the 1930’s. Although it is universally recognised that a ‘sisterly bond’ is a force to be reckoned with, when your sister is physically bound to your hip, this connection is significantly intensified and makes the road to discovering one’s individuality far more complex. Shedding light on the ups and downs of their career, and everything in between, it takes the age old tale of two girls yearning to be accepted by society, and loved for who they are beneath the surface, to a whole other level.
Although only few may be familiar with this show, from the moment you enter the theatre, the mood and scene is immediately set. The space at the Hayes Theatre is quite remarkable in the way it completely transforms from show to show, and the creation of this run down, big-top that awaits you upon entry is simply another example of just how flexible this space is. What the creative team were able to achieve throughout the entire show was simple, yet extremely effective and inventive, not only complimenting the production as a whole beautifully, but really showing off what a tremendous space The Hayes Theatre is.
Although abundantly clear – through the set alone – that this show had quite dark and gritty undertones, this vibe was very much reinforced in the opening. Beginning with a change in the lighting state, creating lots of shadows and a very effective framing of the words “FREAK SHOW” on the front of the big-top, once the exposed, and hauntingly beautiful vocals came through, the audience knew to strap in. Although the ensemble’s vocals were quite exposing, when partnered with Amy Campbell’s clever choreography and Berynn Schwerdt’s (Sir) commanding entrance, it was eerily captivating and very hard to look away.
By the time the twins entered, the premise of the story was sufficiently established, and audience members couldn’t help but be intrigued by the more subdued, yet completely spellbinding energy the Hilton sisters brought to the stage. Laura Bunting and Kerrie Anne Greenland were a match made in heaven. Not only did they work exquisitely as a pair, and their voices complimented each other’s perfectly, but their individual interpretations of Daisy and Violet Hilton were simply sublime – everything you could possibly want them to be, and more. Bunting’s head strong, ambitious Daisy was masterfully balanced, clearly establishing she was the sister with the backbone without sacrificing any tenderness or heart in the process. Greenland’s interpretation of Violet was simply mesmerising. Bringing so much heart and warmth to this fragile twin, the honesty she achieved was heart wrenching, whilst still managing to match Bunting’s energy and fervour at every moment without sacrificing her own demure demeanour. This was an example of casting at its finest.
Daniel Belle as Terry was another example of excellent casting, ticking all the boxes acting wise, whilst delivering a flawless vocal performance. Gabriel Brown (Buddy) looked a little young when put alongside Belle, but his performance maturity spoke for itself. Timothy Springs pulled on everyone’s heartstrings as Jake, delivering a particularly memorable performance.
The ensemble was small, yet strong, and provided opportunities for each performer to shine. Particular mention has to be given to Lachlan Martin however, whose ability to seamlessly transition from cameo role to cameo role demonstrated immense skill. He made every moment and character he portrayed memorable, had incredible comic timing and was a point of discussion in the foyer at interval. A truly remarkable performer.
Although an extremely well executed production, the structure of the show itself is a little clunky, and its rhythm takes some getting used to, but the main crux of the story is easy to follow and is filled with so many other remarkable aspects this should not be a deterrent. Not technically “sung through”, the sung/spoken dialogue ratio is definitely more favourable to the sung side, however, some of the transitions into the musical numbers are a little jarring. Richard Carroll is to be commended on his interpretation, focussing solely on the heart of the production, and proving successful in giving audiences an experience they won’t be forgetting any time soon.
Steven Kreamer complimented everything Carroll set out to achieve with his musical supervision, and Amy Campbell’s choreography definitely deserves another mention as her work is a pleasure to watch.
Lighting played a large part in setting the mood from scene to scene, and the costumes and wigs were truly exquisite. Despite a few sound issues on this particular night, it definitely did not compromise the audience’s experience in any way, shape or form, which is a credit to the performers and all creatives involved.
Sideshow runs at the Hayes Theatre until October 16, so if you’re looking to treat yourself to something special, I strongly suggest getting tickets before it closes.
Written by Sophie Perkins