The Cheeky Sparrow
For Fringe World
Until Feb 13
Emily Andersen is an unprepossessing, 30-something Melbourne girl who’s affection for Britpop, Britain and a boy therefrom got her in and out of love and marriage a few years back.
She’s also a poet, and her witty and touching autobiographical verse play, Love in the Key of Britpop, is the product of that time, that romance and that affection.
Don’t be off put by the verse. Many playwrights, one from the 15th century in particular, have employed it with great success. Anyone who saw last year’s Fringe standout, Neil Watkins’ The Year of Magical Wanking, will remember how brilliantly the form can be used in a contemporary setting. Andersen has achieved a similar success this time around.
Britpop, for those unfamiliar with its specifics, was the genre of alternative rock music led by bands like Oasis, Blur and Pulp that reached its zenith in the mid-1990s. Ten years later, our Emily, still a fan, hangs out in indie clubs around Melbourne to drink, dance and cavort. It’s there she meets a British backpacker, and it’s casual sex at first sight. Love, anchored by their shared passion for the music, follows soon after, and marriage, necessitated by the visa requirements of both their home countries, soon after that.
The light “Aussie chick meets and marries spunky pom” tone of the first half is fun, tasty and carefree, but when harsh reality and heartbreak bring a sadder, wiser tone, Andersen’s writing effortlessly changes gear to accommodate it.
By then you find yourself engrossed in her character, intrigued by her narrative and moving to the pulse of her words. It’s a wonderful effect, more than flexible enough to take you from humour to wretchedness and, finally, resolution without missing a beat.
By their nature, fringe festivals are hydra-headed beasts. You have razor sharp entertainments like The Wau Wau Sisters and Frisky and Mannish, but there's another side to them, small, independent alternative productions for which the fringe offers much needed oxygen. Love in the Key of Britpop is a fine example, and I hope its short season gets the audience it richly deserves.
This review appeared in The West Australian 9.2.13