small & cute oh no @ The Blue Room Theatre
Thursday, July 22, 2021
small & cute oh no is a strange and compelling new dark comedy devised by indie theatre sweethearts Squid Vicious (Cephalopod, Squid Vicious) and Vidya Rajan (The Lizard is Present) and presented at The Blue Room Theatre.
Set in the bowels of a shopping centre in the lead up to Christmas, the show follows the lives of three centre employees desperately trying to survive what is arguably the worst time of the year for retail workers. Overly optimistic mum Jen (Caitlin Beresford-Ord) hides a doleful secret behind her Santa beard. HR intern Peter (Ming Yang Lim) leads a steamy double life on the internet to escape the mundanity of his day job.
Their overbearing and delightfully camp boss Bob (Louis Spencer) simply wants the centre management overlords to reward his hard work with a promotion. And yet, beneath the seemingly banal lives of retail workers lies a true horror story waiting to be unwrapped. If David Lynch’s Twin Peaks were set in a suburban Perth shopping centre, this would be the blueprint for it.
The production successfully balances pop culture playfulness, with Chekhovian naturalistic detail in order to explore themes of class, identity and trauma in a contemporary capitalist setting. Playwright Vidya Rajan has delicately layered these themes throughout the script and under Andrew Sutherland’s masterful direction we see them naturally unfold in the relationships between the characters.
This collaboration between Rajan and Sutherland is made all the more enjoyable by the sheer talent of their ensemble and gives the play a reflective rather than preachy tone. The script is witty, gritty and wistful simultaneously, a testament to Rajan’s talent as a playwright. The well-paced narrative will have you at the edge of your seat, hanging on every word, trying to untangle this delicious and oftentimes suspenseful web of lies and half truths.
Eilish Campbell (set and costume) does a terrific job at transforming the studio space into a sterile yet stylish mall kiosk reminiscent of the pop ups at 140 William Street. Campbell’s sleek design and sensible prop choices, paired with the simple-but-effective lighting design by Jasmine Lifford, allows the space to seamlessly transform over the course of the action. Michelle Aitken’s signature playfulness in the AV design adds a whimsical quality to the show while Jess Nyanda Moyle’s sound design adds a manic Christmas vibe that hovers just below the surface of each scene.
In a world where boundaries of public and private grief are so frequently blurred thanks to social media, small & cute oh no asks us to consider how pain is narrativized, fetishized and even tokenized to get ahead in the rat race.
It’s small, it’s cute – it’s a must see!
Photo by Daniel James Grant