Clubs and societies, especially ones centred around “women’s” activities like knitting and baking, are often the butt of jokes about spinsters or old biddies but people forget what a safe haven, sometimes life-saving service these communities provide. 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche takes it back to the heyday of CWA stereotypes to find humour in dire circumstances.
The script, written by Andrew Hobgood and Evan Linder, takes place at a meeting for the Susan B Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein during their annual quiche breakfast. Not only do the sisters pride themselves on following in the footsteps of their founder and “dealing with it”, but they share an overwhelming, all-consuming adoration of quiche, specifically vegetarian quiche. Unfortunately, on this fateful day in 1956 the sisters could not have known that America would suffer a nuclear bombing, trapping them all in the meeting hall for the next four years quicheless. Once it becomes clear that their fate is literally sealed within the hall, the sisters begin confessing that the title “widow” they each adopted was a mere facade to distract from their unmarried status. They are all, in fact, lesbians!
Hobgood and Linder’s script is absurd and silly, poking fun at the stereotypes of hyper-enthusiastic 50s housewives as well as well-worn softball-playing lesbian jokes. The conversation veers rapidly between screechy hysterics and melodramatic childhood trauma but rounds out to just good fun.
The action of this production had a slow start as the performers developed a natural pace on stage but, in the second half of the performance, they had established their individual personalities and mellowed into a more comfortable dynamic as the narrative played out. Director Rosie Niven leaned hard into the toxic positivity of the characters’ opening introductions, which became rather one-noted until Nyssa Hamilton’s entrance as Lulie, the quiche judge extraordinaire. Hamilton injected the “toxic” into the Society’s positivity with her backhanded compliments and side-eyes.
Olivia Mortimer-Eade as the British immigrant Ginny was an audience favourite for her earnest commitment to shock and outrage as a proper English rose. Mortimer-Eade and Demitra Sealy also both had commendable comic timing as the two more clueless characters out of the bunch. Overall the cast were energetic and worked as a well-balanced ensemble when they’d settled into their roles and shed the polite grins from earlier.
Just like the sisters of the Susan B Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein, this production is about making the best of a bad situation and learning how to laugh again after a terrible 2020 for theatre and the wider community. It’s not revolutionary but maybe hearing a sold out audience cheer “I AM A LESBIAN” is exactly what you need to boost your spirits.
5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche is running at Giant Dwarf Theatre from February 25th – 27th as part of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
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