Glenda and Rita are two black and white stars from the 30s and 40s, who are trying to fit into a modern world of technicolour, personal labels, and what it really means to be a star these days. With a simple setting that involved a wardrobe rail full of clothes in the style of the era, a keyboard, and a collection of simple props that included a porcelain cat, Cinebra: Glenda and Rita took us back to the golden days of cinema with a lot of tongue in cheek, brash comedy moments.
A lot of class, comedy, and insightful observations
The two performers, Alexander Joseph and Ro Robertson, complemented each other well in their different styles as they took on the roles of Rita Herringbone and Glenda Swing. Joseph's Glenda was subtly portrayed, yet remained glamorous, enhanced with just a touch of glitter as he channelled the spirit of Rita Hayworth. In contrast, Robertson's Glenda was further towards the comedy extremes, as he channelled a brash New York broad with a lot of attitude, reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich. Both performers were totally different in their approach, but the comradery they showed was full of magic and mutual appreciation for each other, no matter how dark the content got. They were not afraid to explore topics such as alcoholism, homelessness, dating or sexual abuse in their past and current lives as they introduced themselves to a modern audience without being insensitive, or offensive. It can be difficult to get the balance right with a show like this, in case the material is taken too far for the audience. However, the characters of Herringbone and Swing showed a lot of class, comedy, and insightful observations as they compared their past to now. Even when there were some technical issues at the beginning, as well as wardrobe malfunctions, these mishaps were comically embraced into the material.
Joseph and Robertson have clearly really thought about the details of the lighting, songs, costumes and makeup of the 30s and 40s. The end result was a grey monochrome style mixed with cabaret drag artistry, which added to the glamour and grittiness of Cinebra. It felt like we were in an unusual fusion of the worlds of vintage, modern life and film noir as the two ladies invited us into their world as they knew it. The musical highlights included the chic Know Your Onions (including a very unusual looking ukelele), the melancholy style of Billy, and the rather dramatic My Big Number. Again, all very different styles, but they captured the most universal of emotional journeys, including struggling to find love, wanting happiness, and acceptance.
Cinebra: Glenda and Rita struck a chord with both those who are young and those who are young at heart. It captured joy, sadness and disillusionment all at the same time, and was not to be missed.