Queer joy is always incredible to witness and The Phase, by writers Zoe Morris and Meg McGrady, is a show which does queer joy well. The story follows bandmates and best friends, Rowan, Aziza, Sage and Ava taking down oppressive school rules which restrict them from being their cute queer selves (Minus Ava, who is the token straight friend). The rich and complex plot builds upon layers and layers of story- diving into each character’s personal turmoil as well as general teenage issues.
I really enjoyed the explosion of energy that the performers brought to the stage. The costumes and the live band dressed as crayons, as well as the cartoony props and stage dressing, gave the show a distinct identity. It was hard to not be infected by that tween-y energy.
All the performers had an immense amount of musical talent and were definitely not afraid to show it, most songs featured a lovely long belt and each and every actor hit the note. The band was effortlessly cool, grooving in the back led by their musical director: Amy Hsu. There was no faulting the music and musical talents of anyone involved, but I have to say the choice to have mics was an interesting one. In a venue so small, with powerful voices like the performers had, I found the mics to be a bit too much. There were issues with the sound mixing throughout which just added some extra complications.
The songs and lyrics were diverse and a few songs really packed an emotional punch, my favourites had to be ‘The Sex Talk’ and ‘The confrontation’ which were a joy to watch. I did find there were a few too many songs. At times The Phase felt like it was a much longer show quickly condensed and gutted out to fit 60 minutes. However, this is not a critique at all, I can see the show going to other theatres where they have the freedom to flesh out the dialogue and take their time to perform this story.
Holly Ryan, who played Sage- a type-A science nerd- was a standout for me. Ryan did great background work and her portrayal of a panic attack felt so real. It was an incredibly moving moment in which I felt the whole theatre hold its breath.
Finally, the queer and trans storyline was, as I said before, a joy. It was lovely to see a queer story which was not super traumatic, the brandishing of the trans flag at the end, and a very cool and seamless switch of pronouns when referring to Rowan in the latter half. Songs such as ‘Changing Room’ touched excellently on ideas of gender dysmorphia and expectations. I also loved the portrayal of boundaries when it came to being physical in a relationship. It was really healthy to see.
The Phase is definitely a production which has big ambitions, nothing about it felt like fringe theatre which suggests the show is aspiring to take to some of the larger stages the world has to offer. I’m excited to see how they polish up as they move on to the next step.
Recommended Drink: The Phase is like a super fruity cocktail- like a strawberry daiquiri.
Catch The Phase at the VAULT Festival until Sunday 12th of March at 8:30pm and 2:45pm in the Crescent Theatre. Tickets are available through the VAULT Festival box office.