Review: Meet the Mullets30 October 2020
Comfy in my pyjamas and sitting in my bedroom I decided to take myself to the theatre buuut being 2020 this meant clicking a Zoom link, hoping for some semblance of the ritual of theatre-going that I know and love.
The Travelling Sisters (Lucy Fox, Laura Trenerry and Ell Sachs), an award-winning physical comedy troupe well-known in Fringe theatre scenes, hosted this Zoom to launch their five-part web series Meet the Mullets into the world. This series sees characters from their most recent (and recently cancelled) stage show Thy, Thus, Twas take to the screen and attempt to deal with the cancellation of theatre due to COVID-19. Launched and created months deep into Melbourne’s long lockdown, the series is very of the moment, hilariously satirising, exorcising and playing with the frustrations and difficulties of translating live work that relies on social connection into digital art.
Created in collaboration with Kimberley Twiner (PO PO MO CO, Brunswick East Entertainment Festival), Meet the Mullets recounts the reactions and musings of three die-hard theatre lovers, Darryl, Berrick and Vinnie, as they face the realities of Corona shutdowns and being in close quarters with their families (also played by The Travelling Sisters). The webseries is structured like a Chris Lilley mockumentary but also much better because it’s not offensive and awful and The Travelling Sisters somehow manage to play even more characters than he does. Each portraying both one member of the troupe of man thespians as well as their mothers (and in one case also father), Lucy Fox, Laura Trenerry and Ell Sachs commit their entire body to each character they take on. Australian stereotypes shine through and are manipulated for full comedic effect from Sachs’s South Yarra, juice cleansing Trish who thinks celery is spicy, to Trenerry’s Mel, a butchy mum who holds an ipad to her face and just wants someone to join her with a little kick of the footy and finally to Fox’s Darryl who is just such a Darryl.
The title may seem bizarre but keen-eyed viewers will notice that each actor wears only one wig throughout the series and that we get to meet the contrasting characters that these very mullety wigs have helped inform. The mullet wigs make perfect poetic sense for all characters and work to enrich the genius of all three leading actors’ characterisations. Jemma Cotter’s slick editing shines throughout this web series. Contrasting characterisations expertly executed by The Travelling Sisters were even further enhanced by this faultless editing (and the use of body doubles) that made it seem that characters played by the same actor were actually different people.
While I did not take away the same things from the watch-party opening that one takes from the thrill of an opening night what I found in this Zoominar was a group of collaborators and artistic conspirators, communities kept apart by oceans and restrictions but brought together by a collective love for play and the celebration of their achievements. It was a watch party full of warmth despite the cold night, zoom malfunctioning and the perils of distance and pausing of live theatre for now. It became evident that a whole community had helped to make the series happen with housemates and partners acting as extras, a tiny film crew to meet the restrictions of the day and lead actors being each other’s body doubles. ‘Theatre is cancelled thanks a lot Corona 19’ was the tagline for the web series but the creation only proves that while our beloved theatre is cancelled artists and their craft will not be stopped. The show must and does go on even if it must be reworked, remoulded, reinvented.
Minutes after my time in the wild and at times slightly-too-realistic-for-comfort world of the Travelling Sisters had ended I sent the link to my sister and heard her cackling soon after. This show allowed much-need laughter to ripple across my home and into the lives of everyone I sent it to. (Ah the convenience of digital art) As Darryl puts it, we must ‘keep the flame of theatre alive’ and that is exactly what Meet the Mullets does- it is a hilarious ode to artists and the wonderful joyous things they create, fanning the coals until the flames of theatre can burn properly once again. All we can hope now is that theatre can come back one day soon for although this was a wonderful creation it is not quite the same as being rapt in the magic of the live theatre. I hope this watching brings the same essential, theatrical and silly joy to you as it brought to me and mine, though, as Darryl says when the day comes for theatre to return ‘I’ll be ready’.
Meet the Mullets is now live on the Travelling Sisters’s Youtube channel.
Here is the first episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PR02yFwdV20&feature=youtu.be
You can also find more out about the troupe by heading to their website.