Midsumma: Psycho Beach Party

Hot diggity! If Psycho Beach Party isn’t the most hip, groovy and neat-o hit of Midsumma, then I’ve got no idea what people like. Full of lust, longing and psychotic shaving, it proves that you don’t have to be a queen to be camp or be gay to be queer.

There’s songs by the B52s on a beach made of leopard print and shiny silvery-black steamers (Owen Phillips) that’s filled with a super-hot cast of dream boats and gals dressed in leopard print and black (Eugyeene Teh). Do you need to know more?

Psycho Beach Party. Photo by Sarah Walker
Psycho Beach Party. Photo by Sarah Walker

Charles Busch has been playing women and looking damn fine in a frock since the 70s and been writing like plays the 80s off-Broadway hit Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. In 1987, he wrote (and starred in) Psycho Beach Party. It’s like a 60s Annette/Gidget beach film with dreamboats and boyish girls who learn how to to surf and how to fill out a bikini, but with a Hitchcockish undertone (without the misogyny) and a bloody splash of a multiple personality psychodrama and drive-in slasher flick. It’s a bit like if Sybil and Freddie staying at the new Bates motel on Malibu beach, but gayer.

And there’s no one better to re-imagine this American queer cultural-mash-up than director Stephen Nicolazzo (sex.violence.blood.gore) and his company Little Ones Theatre. Its first season was at the Bondi Pavillion last year, but Melbourne has Theatre Works, even if St Kilda has never seen a surfer.

Nicolazzo models Psycho Beach Party as a parody that’s not a spoof. It’s non-stop hilarious, but it doesn’t make fun of the absurd plot and outrageously stereotyped characters. Instead, it takes what we genuinely adore about about these genres and turns the volume up to magnificent, as it laughs at the dull squares who don’t understand the fun – and reminds us how it’s not about gender by letting drag heroine (Ash Flanders) perform without wig, padding or tuck. He does have a lovely hair clip though and a decolletage that lets him wear strapless gown without fear of side boob.

Mz Flanders is joined by a too-gorgeous selection from the new gen of local enfant terrifics: Genevieve Giuffre, Peter Paltos, Caitlin Adams, Kevin Kiernan Molloy, Zoe Boesen, Paul Blenheim, Tom Dent and Amanda McGregor, and much of Psycho’s magnificence comes from this cast who love every second the show, but never let that love get in the way of stiletto-sharp performances.

It finishes on Saturday 19; that’s less than a week away and if you don’t get a ticket ASAP, you’ll be left like a wall flower who never took their sneakers off at the Sock Hop.

A chat with Genevieve Guiffre.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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