It may be a “silly little show”, but it has the audience effortlessly under its spell from the outset; a spell that doesn’t break at any point throughout their hour-long set, even as we’re standing together singing a ballad from the perspective of “decrepit old nuns.”
It’s a Friday night and I’m leading my mum up the stairs to the top floor of the Malthouse, into a little room in the back corner. She notes how “intimate” the venue is, and instantly I’m worried she was the wrong person to bring with me. After all, she did go see Kevin Hart last week. But within the first two minutes of the show, she’s hysterical, laughing uncontrollably along with the rest of the crowd as The Beryls hold their pose and command us to continue applauding for longer. And we do. It may be a “silly little show”, but it has the audience effortlessly under its spell from the outset; a spell that doesn’t break at any point throughout their hour-long set, even as we’re standing together singing a ballad from the perspective of “decrepit old nuns.”
Importantly, and like all great comedy shows should, Cattle Call was not a performance that took itself too seriously. Returning to their hometown of Schlumpsville after a failed career in pageantry, the show centres on the casting of their latest play, "Veronica & The Time Travelling Tiara".
Patrick Dwyer’s turn as glamorous leading lady Victoria Beauvoir was divine. His acting range saw him seamlessly transition from a swan in mourning to a diva pianist hitting the highest of notes, and weaving lines into his heartfelt songs such as “she’s a whore in the Moulin Rouge” that are both shocking and riotously hilarious.
And Laura Trenerry as the bronzed and exquisitely dressed director, Roger Seahorse, was an absolute delight. From her awkward background mannerisms to her perfectly manic laughter, Trenerry’s constant dedication to her portrayal of this feisty man was hysterical. After hearing Roger pronounce stage as “stahj” and him confusing “lesbians” for “thespians”, it became very clear very quickly I would do anything for this little man and his pamphlets–except volunteer to play the male lead, that was something I was absolutely leaving to another audience member.
And thank the theatre gods that I did. The audience member chosen for the role of male lead, Swan Prince Dreynden, was simply born for the role, embracing every facet of his character with the utmost sportsmanship, and allowing The Beryls flare for audience engagement and improvisation to flourish in the most magical of ways. And yet, their capacity to think on their feet, in moments such as their curtain continually falling down, made it glaringly clear that their confidence and capacity for hilarious audience interaction would shine in any environment.
Despite Roger having received his “directing course on Zoom,” the brilliantly chaotic Veronica & The Time Travelling Tiara comes together beautifully. With Roger’s careful direction and Victoria’s keen musical instincts, the two deliver on-stage chemistry equal to the camp icons that came before them. Think Rocky Horror and Leslie Jordan combined with the musicality of Flight of the Conchords and the dramatic flair of Chris Lilley’s Mr G. Whilst that may seem like a niche combination, I offer it as the highest of compliments, a combination of influences a performance can only dare to achieve in staging a show as truly fun as this.
You can catch The Beryls' Cattle Call until April 9 as part of this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival.