Directed by Maeve Marsden, the Sydney Festival’s Lizzie tells the true story of Lizzie Borden, who allegedly axed to death her father and stepmother in Massachusetts in 1982 – looking very innocent and camp in the process. It can be interpreted as the gay, gothic, gory rendition of Picnic At Hanging Rock all the queers have begged for, except that it is not a rendition of Picnic At Hanging Rock at all. It’s just that with the clever decision by Marsden and the creative team to strip the story of most context, then stitch it back up with ocka accents, it fits perfectly into the Australian narrative – reimagined as farm-life gothic. So much so you can almost feel the sweltering heat of the Australian landscape.
The four characters perform in front of a five piece band and the musical numbers outshine any other aspect of the show. Although all the acting is strong, the lack of dialogue makes it hard to follow at times. Particularly during the first act when it is hard to see and feel the emotional connection between the characters, an element which appears to be the basis of the entire show, as there is no focus on plot. This does pick up during the second act however as there are more solo musical numbers, and the relationships have obvious motivations. So, if you find the first act dragging on a bit, hold tight, it gets much better.
To truly enjoy this performance, you must appreciate every scene and every moment individually for the stories they tell. Marissa Saroca’s Lizzie adorning a white dress to meet her jury is reminiscent of the well-known queer experience of dressing in a specific, acceptable manner to be accepted in broader society. Or Stefanie Caccamo’s Alice depicting the toxic positive figure constantly finding the bright side, even during a murder trial. The musical number counting down the days was an extremely emotionally invoking experience for me, reminding me of being a teenager and waiting for the days I could be openly queer and experience queer community.
Overall, every scene separately tells a different queer experience laden with blood, fantastical movement, 20-hole leather boots and a strong and captivating band with incredible attention to detail. The costumes are amazing, the characters witty and hilarious in their own accord, and it is worth a watch, especially if you have unmet punk-rock and bloody fantasies to fulfil.