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Inside Midsumma’s Must-See Rock Musical, The Legend Of Queen Kong

By Stephen A Russell - 15 Jan 2019

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Just like Star Wars, Midsumma Festival theatrical highlight The Legend of Queen Kong starts slap bang in the middle with Episode II. Imprisoned in outer space, this latest alter ego of queer cabaret diva Sarah Ward (aka Yana Alana) is part immortal god, part ape and part stone. She’s on a mission to find out what makes humans tick, even as they flee from her in fear.

So far, so gloriously bonkers, reflecting Ward’s sci-fi and fantasy-loving childhood. “I was obsessed with Star Wars and the magic of non-linear time in Monkey Magic,” she says.

Describing the show as modern mythology and feminist manifesto, it draws on pop culture references from Gargantua to Mothra, to King Kong. It’s also a barnstorming rock musical with the aid of long-term partner Bec Matthews, who leads gender-diverse The HOMOsapiens band. “I can’t tell you how hard she has worked,” Ward says. “She’s put her life on hold and has been there every step of the way step of the way. She’s constantly patient, she does it all with grace and good will and never says, ‘this is too hard’.”

In a refreshing approach to accessibility Matthews also taught herself how to close caption the video art-led Midsumma extravaganza—designed by Will Huxley and animator Finn Scholes—with Ward and the band joined for the run by deaf performer Asphyxia and Auslan Interpreter Kirri Dangerfield.

“Asphyxia told us really early on that it’s a sad misconception that deaf and hard of hearing people don’t like music,” Ward says. “Some people are partially hearing, some can’t hear at all but can feel the vibrations, and others move with the vibe of the room and the lighting. I’m learning more and more about the diversity within the community.”

Diversity is the name of the game for Ward. “Bec and I sat down and asked ourselves, if we’re writing this show about the human experience and our connection with the earth and the universe and we’re actually excluding a group of humans from accessing this work, then we’re not doing our job.”

Directed by the incredible Susie Dee with support from dramaturg Anni Davey, Ward says it’s the most collaborative work she’s ever created and the one she’s most proud of, dedicated as it is to Matthews’ late father, with a final song in his honour. “It’s also looking at how humans treat each other and the planet, so there’s politics in there as well as the pop culture references and the very personal touches.”

A clarion call for action, it’s also a rollicking adventure. “I want everyone to have fun, to come along dressed out of this world, and I hope it inspires the empathy I see in most queers and queer allies, the kind of people that stop to pick a snail up off the path,” Ward says. “How tragic it is that a part of our nature as humans is to consume, to be greedy, to fight each other? At some point we really, really need to sit down and go, ‘we’re seriously looking at the end of our species’. What does that mean to us? It is f**king real, and this show is a little bit about that.”

The Details

What: The Legend Of Queen Kong Episode II: Queen Kong In Outer Space
Where: Arts Centre Melbourne, St Kilda Road
When: Wednesday 16 January – Sunday 20 January
For more info, click here.

Also check out:

FATHER FIGURE

If, like us, you’re still mourning the passing of superstar George Michael, with ‘Last Christmas’ transformed from cheesy fave to gut-wrenching tragedy, up-and-coming cabaret kid Andy Johnston is your man, delivering a heartfelt tribute to the voice that brought him Freedom!

Where: Chapel off Chapel, Prahran
When: Wednesday 23 - Friday 25 January
For more info, click here.

THE BUTCH MONOLOGUES

Drawing on the forthright insights of butch-identifying women, trans men and gender non-conformists, this Midsumma ensemble piece derived from real-life interviews explodes binary notions.

Where: Theatre Works, St Kilda
When: Sunday 27 January – Sunday 3 February
For more info, click here.

LATE NIGHT WITH MAMA ALTO

Gender transcendent cabaret diva Alto sold out her trans all-star collaboration Gender Euphoria, but fear not, you can still catch this absolute legend FOR FREE at the official Midsumma Festival Bar, with William Elm on piano.

Where: The Coopers Malthouse, Southbank
When: Saturday 9 February, 9.30pm-12am
For more info, click here.

BECOME THE ONE

Adam Fawcett picked up the Midsumma Playtime Staged Readings Award last year for his stirring take on a closeted AFL player’s secretive romance and struggle with unreasonable expectations of masculinity.

Where: Gasworks Arts Park, Albert Park
When: Thursday 31 January – Saturday 9 February
For more info, click here.

THE MISS BEHAVE GAMESHOW

Cabaret queen Miss Behave (Amy Saunders, La Clique and La Soirée) takes on Midsumma with glamorous assistant Tiffany (comedy star Bret Pfister) following a show-stopping stint in Las Vegas with this outrageous quiz cum variety show.

Where: Arts Centre Melbourne, St Kilda Road
When: Tuesday 22 – Sunday 27 January
For more info, click here

Looking for other things to do around Melbourne? Head to our Things To Do section for further inspiration.

Image credit: supplied

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