‘Yours Sincerely Banana Brains’ was bananas.
During trying times, artists often place their personal memories on stage, giving life to something that would otherwise only exist in their mind. ‘Yours Sincerely Banana Brain’ was a work presented as an autobiographical creation at the Queensland Cabaret Festival. This format of story-telling is always a gamble in whether it will strike a chord with audiences or leave the crowd disconnected. ‘Yours Sincerely Banana Brain’ operated in a space somewhere between these two realities.
Presented by NiKNaK Productions, the show begins with Lizzie Flynn as Zara reflecting on her early 20s in the late 1990s after receiving a Facebook friend request from a mysterious user named Violet. What follows is a series of flashbacks, starring Ella Macrokanis as Violet and Emma Whitefield as a younger Zara, as the two best friends navigating their 20s and slowly drifting apart. While a solid concept on which to base a musical drama, in practice the work lacks depth and at times feels more like a first or second draft than a finalised production.
That being said, the talent displayed by Flynn, Macrokanis and Whitefield is nothing short of extraordinary. Whitefield brings a depth to the troubled Violet while still showing a brightness that explains exactly why Zara would be attracted to her in the first place. Flynn is beautiful as the older Zara bringing an almost haunted presence to the role. Partnering with the other characters, it is Macrokanis who truly shines in this work. She manages to reflect many of the mannerisms of the older Zara while simultaneously showing a girl developing over her 20s. The entire ensemble effectively brings the script to life. Even mistakes like an accidental mic drop felt natural and lived in.
Flynn, who also wrote the music for the work with a script by her brother Pat, has injected an incredible amount of heart into this production, hence the autobiographical nature of it. In this case, however, Flynn’s attachment to the production acts as a bit of a negative. While at times the work seems to suggest a romantic undertone to the relationship between the two friends, the work simultaneously seems scared to suggest the woman are anything but straight. Plus there are suggestions of the difference between the socio-economic circumstances of the pair that the work fails to fully explore. It is choices like these that suggest the writing team is too close to the work to see what would make ‘Yours Sincerely Banana Brain’ a more interesting and three-dimensional show.
Cienda McNamara’s direction does its best to overcome the shortcomings of the script by creating a breezy pace, never staying too long in a scene and allowing the audience to be carried along. With subtle costume choices, props, and set, McNamara creates a world that is clearly the 90s while simultaneously not feeling like a period piece.
In many ways the performances and the direction work together to make an overall enjoyable afternoon of theatre, but there is a constant feeling that the work could and should be better. ‘Yours Sincerely Banana Brain’ clearly has the legs to be great with further revisions and audience feedback.
‘Yours Sincerely Banana Brain’ performed for two shows only at The Old Museum. For more information visit about NiKNaK Productions, visit their website.