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Three Fat Virgins is a hilarious and discomforting satire about the internalised and cyclical misogyny women face throughout their lives.
Part of the thoroughly underrepresented Chinese theatre canon, I’d never heard of Three Fat Virgins before seeing it at KXT, where it was produced by an all Asian-Australian cast and creative team. Set at a girls’ tea in Singapore in the 1990s the play unfolds in a series of vignettes that explore the double standards, discrimination and harsh self-reflection Asian women experience as mothers, daughters and wives while in the workplace, alone on the street, and even among other female friends. The references to Singaporean culture are explicit enough that I was grateful for the glossary provided in the show program, but its overarching themes translate universally across cultures and, unfortunately, time. Written in 1991, it’s a bit of a slap in the face to realise that so many of the plot points are still pretty darn relevant 20 years later.
Staging is choreographed like an orchestral piece, with every instrument playing its part. The simple, adjustable furniture facilitates the fast-paced changes of scene and character, while musical interludes parodying well-known songs and narrative storytelling add the playfulness needed to shock and mock the dark messages communicated throughout. The monochrome costumes each cast member wears – white, pink, green and red – at once distinguishes them and yet allows them to transform fluidly into each new character and sketch.
Gender-flipping the all-female cast puts a fascinating lens on the sexual harassment, toxic diet culture, unhappy marriage and family obligations the characters unpack in only 65 minutes. Their matter-of-fact way of identifying which character they’re portraying in the moment – more often than not a simple statement that ‘I am a man’ – make scenes funny but also super uncomfortable. The play is about all the unjust and unfair standards men and women place on women, and the discomfort you feel watching women transgress some of those standards to play men adds untold depth to the message they send.
I must admit I got a little restless a couple of times just because the storytelling style is quite consistent throughout. A character would hint here and there that they knew something was wrong with the situation they or their counterpart was in, but without further interrogation or assertion of change until the very last moment. While a little disheartening, it was at least an accurate dose of realism with a splash of optimism, and I left with a smile on my face because I knew I’d just seen something quite special occur.
Wine Pairing | Botrytis Semillon
Botrytis wine is a bit of a special one, taking extra time and care to grow grapes in such a way that concentrates sugar in order to give wines a deeper, sweeter flavour.
My Pick: Deen Vat 5 Botrytis Semillon, 2017, De Bortoli
This Semillon is short, sweet and great value, drinking well now but able to be cellared for 10-15 years and maintain the punch, character and originality Three Fat Virgins brings to the stage. The botrytis add honey, stone fruit and citrus flavours with a nice acidic cut-through. It’s no surprise that it’s a global people-pleaser, winning multiple awards in 2019, 2020 and 2021 Australian and Chinese wine competitions.
|Aussie Season||Nov 24 to Dec 4, 2021, Kings Cross Theatre/Slanted Theatre|
|Theatre Type & Genre||Play, Satire|
|See it if you like||diverse stories, moving beyond the Aussie/US/UK theatre canon, laugh out loud moments, clever costuming|
|Other Info||Produced as part of KTX’s Storylines project, which aims to highlight First Nations and culturally and linguistically diverse artists. I recommend sitting in the seats nearest to the theatre entrance, as the majority of the scenes are angled towards it.|
|Wine Pairing||Botrytis Semillon|
|Criteria for Wine Pairing||Cellarable for 10-15 years and maintain its punch, character and originality|