Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) is a clever and multi-layered show, amusing to watch and difficult to review. It is produced by a new company, Evening Productions, who are keen on creating stories featuring female characters. The show is staged upstairs at the Cheeky Sparrow, an intimate space wrapped in black canvas.
The story follows two baristas, Carly and Nessa, both working at the café. The narrative focuses on modern day dilemmas, cleverly woven into the lives of characters trying to make sense of themselves and the world around them. It’s their quest to find their place and connect with real people rather than clichéd stereotypes. The whole thing takes place against a kitsch-comic book background.
This setting comes to life through ingenious use of cardboard stage props, lighting, and quality sound effects, featuring the coffee machine brewing and milk frothing. The cardboard coffee machine that makes marshmallow lattes is adorable.
The background is probably inspired by Carly. She is the living embodiment of a nerdy comic book, literature and movie aficionado emerging from the safety of the escapist world they have built around themselves. She is on the cusp of entering the next level of reality, with university anthropology assignments, a job, and real interactive relationships with non-fictional characters.
Nessa is the polar opposite: a straight talking, fearless, tough chick, believing her way is the only way – whether it’s legal or not. With savvy social media skills, she is the hardboiled detective archetype, with some of the funniest lines in the show. Nessa is also frustrated that women are seen as “stupid, half-naked dolls on a diet of hero’s journeys”.
Among the clichéd men, Darren is the mildly creepy, inappropriate and needy guy who just won’t take a hint (“customer service is not flirting”). Chase is the dreamy, confident, and charming grande coffee regular. He is Carly’s love interest.
Carly’s fantasy is interrupted by another customer, Morgana, the #manicpixiedreamgirl. Here enters our third female character, and for those that don’t know, MPDG is a term used to describe a female popular culture cliché. The MPDG is usually a cheerful, vacant, shiny supporting character to the male lead role. So obviously Chase can’t resist Morgana, the shiny, sweet-like-her-marshmallow-latte, band-playing trope. Everyone but Carly is drawn to Morgana’s sparkly, over-the-top charm.
The story evolves as the personalities collide and the women get to know each other, and themselves. The multifaceted show weaves in modern themes such as culturally-accepted norms around social media; privacy rights; gender roles; stalking; customer service; and probity. It takes us along on a female quest of self-discovery amid escapism and insecurity, all the while challenging the MPDG stereotype. It is a clever and fun performance with a ukulele serenade. It’s a reflection of the human experience with hints of quantum fiction.
My only niggle is that the acting may have been a bit exaggerated for such an intimate setting and may have suited a bigger stage, but it was the opening night. I sincerely hope the Evening Productions team keep working together and keep evolving their stories.
Go see this (mostly) femme-powered production company for a refreshing take on relationships and contemporary issues facing us all.
Manic Pixie Dream Girl runs for a few more weeks at the Mezzanine Bar at Cheeky Sparrow. Tickets are $26 and you can get them here.
4 marshmallow lattes out of 5
Elaine Hanlon // @elainehanlonart
Elaine dreams of a day where baristas know how to make a proper pot of tea.
Image courtesy of FRINGE WORLD Festival
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Other Festivals have demonstrated that ethical sources of funding are possible – you can read more, and sign the petition, here: https://www.change.org/p/fringeworld-side-with-the-climate-and-drop-woodside-petroleum // #fossilfreefringe #fossilfreearts // Arts and Cultural Workers for Climate Action