Stage

Summertime in the Garden of Eden (Griffin Theatre, Sydney)

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What do the critics think of Summertime in the Garden of Eden? We review the reviews.
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The low-down

Sisters Grimm make yet another splash with their take on Civil War melodrama. There’s a Southern Belle, a family plantation in Georgia, and a ‘Big Daddy’. But Gone With The Wind this ain’t. Originally staged in a backyard shed in Thornbury, the play is now at Theatre Works, before it moves to Sydney’s SBW Stables Theatre. Agent Cleave (who has tattoos and a beard) plays Daisy Mae, and Bessie Holland (a woman) plays Big Daddy.

Our verdict

Without revealing too much of what goes on, because the thrills come in the twists and turns, every character is permanently, and irretrievably damaged by somebody else’s ambition, or somebody’s expectations. It is a comedy, in every conceivable way, but like all great comedies, there’s a little tragedy beating deep in the heart of Summertime. READ OUR REVIEW

What the other critics say

Everybody has thrown their support behind this play, from its first showing, through to its current production at Theatre Works. Critics are particularly impressed with the way director Declan Greene has taken a high camp melodrama, and found hidden depths, affection for the genre, and explored sexuality and gender in political ways. Sisters Grimm have, for a few years now, been the hot new kids on the block. Queer theatre is just so in right now!  Consensus rating: 9/10
“It is melodrama on amyl nitrate; the recipe a dose of Scarlett O’Hara and a pinch of Blanche Dubois well-spiced with obscenity, wit and astonishing performances. And, as with all Sisters Grimm’s work, Summertime in the Garden of Eden is underpinned by a deftly intelligent subtext that skewers the binary world of white heteronormativity.” Alison Croggon, The Guardian
“Expect obscenity, a cracking plot, and – under Declan Greene’s direction – a highly sophisticated level of artifice that goes beyond any simple notion of camp to unearth complex truths about gender, race and sexuality.” Cameron Woodhead, The Age
“Summertime in the Garden of Eden is a vicious, no-holds-barred farce of epic proportions. Trashing the likes of Scarlett O’Hara and Julie Marsden, The Sisters Grimm leave the Southern Belle broken and disfigured – and their audience in stitches. With Fairweather Estate torn to the ground, there is no more room for illusion.” Christopher Fieldus, SameSame
Summertime in the Garden of Eden doesn’t poke a stick at the traditions of the antebellum deep south, it attacks them with a battering ram. The result is a performance exploding with the Sisters’ usual hilarity and undercut by some harsh truths. Writers Declan Green and Ash Flanders wring out the steaminess and oppression of Gone With the Wind and the aesthetics and elevated language of Tennessee Williams to create a show dripping in high comedy and camp.” Liza Dezfouli, ArtsHub
Ash Flanders and Declan Greene — aka Sisters Grimm — take the cardinal compass points of sex and sexuality, race and gender identification and spin them like a roulette wheel. Every element of a Sisters Grimm production arrives with a pair of inverted commas hovering close by. Some elements, like the beautiful and hirsute southern belle Daisy May (played by Agent Cleave), are more inverted than others. Cleave is playing a “woman” rather than a woman. So far, so queer.Chris Boyd, The Australian

Verdict

Hilarious, challenging and touching. A must-see.

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