I have a confession to make: I absolutely love romantic comedies. I could confidently recite quite a few of the early noughties’ classics word for word. If I’m feeling down, I turn to Bridget Jones, William Thacker and Summer for comfort. But I’m also fully aware that these films are fantasy, that they are problematic and lead to many of us having unrealistic expectations of romance. This is a slightly long-winded way of saying that I was intrigued by female and non-binary drag theatre collective The Haus of Bollix‘s show, Definitely Maybe Actually Nevermind.
The show, written by drag artist Crystal Bollix (Alexandra Christle), is both love letter to the rom-com and analysis and critique of the heteronormative characters, misogynistic attitudes and cutesy plot lines that these films embrace. A meet cute seems romantic when the old man in The Holiday explains it, but when it’s broken down by Crystal you reconsider these moments as, at best, slightly bizarre but at worst, harassment. Crystal makes their opinions clear through a mixture of lip-syncing to famous lines from the movies and songs from the soundtracks, alongside hilarious mimes and facial expressions. Their rendition of (500) Days of Summer was a highlight, as well as the, now I reconsider it, frankly ludicrous way that Noah persuades Allie to go out with him in The Notebook.
Crystal’s show is a wonderful cabaret performance and despite watching this on the live stream from The Space, they are engaging throughout. At one point the stream was lost due to a power cut, and when it returned, Crystal is ad-libbing to the audience in the room. This didn’t appear to faze them, and I’m sure the audience wouldn’t have minded listening to Crystal’s off the cuff anecdotes for the whole hour.
Sharing the stage with Crystal is Lena Stahl who acts as an assistant to their performance for much of the show. One of Lena’s most important roles is bringing the cardboard cut-out of Colin Firth on and off the stage, the fact it keeps on falling over only adds to the comedy. Her deadpan expression for much of the show is hilarious, and her moment in the spotlight more enjoyable as a result. The show also provides a stage for a couple of cabaret performers who come on to keep us entertained during the “ad break”. The Inimitable Min performs an entrancing routine with hula hoops while Bolly Ditz Dolly combines Bollywood, comedy and burlesque – it’s a joy to watch.
Despite the chaotic feel of the show and the increasingly flimsy Colin Firth cut out falling over, Definitely Maybe Actually Nevermind has so much charm and warmth. Crystal Bollix is funny and raunchy. Even watching from my sofa they had me completely hooked.
I’ll not let many people insult my precious rom-coms (despite their many flaws), but Crystal’s hilarious deconstruction turns into an honest and emotional look at their own life, and why perhaps these comfort blanket stories aren’t the answer to all our problems after all.
Written by: Alexandra Christle
Directed by: Kate Bauer
Produced by: The Haus of Bollix
(Note this review was via the livestream service available for nearly all Space shows)
Definitely Maybe Actually Nevermind plays at The Space until 2 April. It is then available on-demand until 16 April. Further information and bookings can be found here.