It’s almost dawn – on stage - as our drag queen narrator teeters on stage to begin her monologue. The voluminous red wig, the sweeping false eyelashes, the dramatic make-up with a slash of lipstick are all the classic drag signs – complicated by a beard. The stunning elegance of the simple evening dress is just a little undercut by the near cliché challenging aggression – intended to shock, to forestall criticism and delivered full throttle in a whiskey-and-cigarettes snarl – of booze, drugs and lots of sex. But then comes her complaint – of course - about how f**king disappointing it all is… although there’s nothing worse than when the party’s really, finally over and the barman closes the bar…
But as she/he peels off the wig, mimes (deliberately badly) to Edith Piaf’s Non, je regrette rien and slowly removes all the other accoutrements, a different person – or persona emerges. The rasp comes off the voice and it becomes softer, more reflective. It is a transformation you are compelled to watch in all its stages because it is a metamorphosis.
She/he is shedding a skin – hence the ‘snake’ of the title – a skin to cover and defend her/his essential being in one world. By the end she/he will have assumed another skin – appropriate for the day job. It is the exploration – psychological, philosophical, autobiographical – of this concept that is the subject of this highly intelligent, insightful and moving hour of theatre.
The performer is Lachlan Martin – tall, graceful, unhurried and very good looking - and he gives us a finely modulated transition or series of transitions from loud, brassy, coarse, self-pitying drag queen to… someone else entirely. Entirely? Perhaps not quite. There is someone irreducible there within the skins and Lachlan Martin finds that and gives us a glimpse.
Kotryna Gesait’s text varies constantly in light and shade, and from ironic to sad, and if it includes one or two many quotations, briefly meanders at times from subject to subject, and at others threatens to disappear up its own philosophical fundament, Lachlan Martin keeps us rivetted. As he ends, now someone totally unrecognisable from where he began, he gives us a wry, ironic smile that says, ‘Well, that’s me (or this me, now), but that’s my life – and I will survive.’
The Midsumma Festival gives us such varieties of LGBTQI experience – from take-it-or-leave-it defiance, to pleas for acceptance, to defining identity, to the struggle to find love in a still hostile world – and to Party Snake – a finely crafted and performed account of one human being’s life that expands recognition, understanding and empathy in unexpected ways.