‘Buyer and Cellar’ was aspirational.
Take a moment to think of your hero. Perhaps it is a childhood superhero. Perhaps it is a family member. Perhaps it is a particular famous person from your field. Now imagine what it would be like to meet this person in real life. For some, it would be a once in a lifetime experience. For others, a moment built up in their head that does not live up to expectation.
Alternatively, it may be a mixed bag that provides life experience with a twinge of humour. This very scenario is the basis for Sevenfold Theatre Company’s latest production of the 2022 season, ‘Buyer & Cellar’.
Originally penned by Jonathan Tolins, ‘Buyer & Cellar’ is a one-man play telling the fictitious story of struggling gay actor Alex More, who receives a unique employment opportunity – to become curator of Barbra Streisand’s basement mall.
First premiering at New York’s Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre in April 2013, the show transferred to the off-Broadway Barrow Street Theatre two months later. Michael Urie, who originated the role of Alex, received Clarence Derwent and Drama Desk Awards for his performance. Since its initial run, several productions have been performed for international audiences in France and the UK. Its latest iteration sees Melbourne’s Motley Bauhaus double as Babs’ boutique boulevard.
With a premise as deliciously campy as this, ‘Buyer & Cellar’ relishes in its frivolous nature. All aspects of the production collaborate well to provide audiences with a show that is as memorable as, well, the corners of Barbra’s mind.
The Motley’s Blackbox Theatre offers an intimate setting befitting of the secretive, secluded local of Streisand’s underground mall. Stage Manager Giacinta Squires demonstrates a refined comprehension of the show’s juxtaposing tones of campiness and sophistication. The set is stylish in its simplicity – a clothes rack is stationed to stage left; a velvet couch to the right; a single chair just left of centre; and a television screen displaying images of the Hollywood songstress mounted upon the back wall. Each piece of furniture is placed with considered purpose, affording the stage a feeling of faultlessness likely to earn the approval of the show’s musical muse.
Technical Manager Opal Essence bathes the stage in warm, glowing lights, eliciting a feeling of pristine perfection. Essence simultaneously coordinates lighting choices with musical motifs and comical sounds. In one particular moment of hilarity, suggestive music overplays Alex’s inner monologue about whether he is being seduced a la ‘The Graduate’, only for a sudden key and lighting change to highlight what the real situation is. Timing is critical in moments such as these, and Essence’s precision is to be commended.
Similarly, Director Zachary Dixon excels in their comprehension of the comedic play. Having served as Sevenfold Theatre Company’s Artistic Director since its inception in 2019, Dixon showcases their proficiency for bringing a story from the page to the stage. Dixon directs sole performer Joshua Strachan with levity and meticulous foresight. As is customary with one-person plays, special awareness of the stage is imperative. Dixon demonstrates a keen eye for comedic choreography and blocking, affording ‘Buyer & Cellar’ a sense of grandeur, even within the limited constraints of the independent theatre.
This is further exemplified by Strachan’s brilliant solo performance. With the majority of ‘Buyer & Cellar’ presented from Alex’s point of view, Strachan considers the characterisation and motivation of the protagonist carefully. This, in conjunction with humorous turns as Babs and Alex’s boyfriend, Barry, cements Strachan as an overtly passionate and innate comedic chameleon. With 90 minutes falling heavily upon Strachan’s shoulders, their commitment to the story, as well as a genuine appreciation for Miss Streisand, is resolute and infectious.
Inspiration can be drawn from a myriad of places and situations. Occasionally, it can even be drawn from a single person. For Sevenfold Theatre Company’s latest production ‘Buyer & Cellar’, it is clear that the iconic Barbra Streisand offers no shortage of such inspiration. With ample servings of camp and heart, this one-man show is sure to bring smiles to the uninitiated and Strei-stans alike. Grab an umbrella and a ticket as you do not want to rain on this show’s parade.
‘Buyer & Cellar’ performed until Saturday, 12 November 2022 at Carlton’s Motley Bauhaus. For more information, visit The Motley’s website.