Review: Gender Euphoria, Midsumma Festival

Goodbye gender dysphoria, hello Gender Euphoria! A highlight of the Midsumma Festival.
Review: Gender Euphoria, Midsumma Festival
Mahla Bird and Quinn Eades in Gender Euphoria. Photo by Alexis Desaulniers-Lea.

Joy, joy, joy! Gender Euphoria was a special performance.

The humanness of us all was shared that night, no matter where you were on the gender/sexuality spectrum. Coming together to celebrate and appreciate the previously gender ‘dysphoric’ was a lovely, generous, intimate experience of a show performed in a big space, the Fairfax Studio at the Arts Centre.

Diva Mama Alto and cabaret enfant terrible Maude Davey co-created Gender Euphoria, a variety night comprising Australia’s biggest line-up of trans/non-binary talent in one space, assuring us that beyond the pain of marginalisation and misunderstanding in the gender diverse experience there exists bliss.

Mama Alto opened by relating a story of being given the limited option of recording their gender on a recorded telephone survey about voting by pressing 1. male or 2. female. (‘Male’ always comes first, so long the ‘default’ state of human beings.) The absurdity of this ever-present paradigm overtook oppressive reality – at that moment Mama pushed six and began to laugh, uncontrollably, laughter which contained the beginnings of Gender Euphoria.

Gender Euphoria put the 'variety' into a variety show like no other, the respective acts expressing the experience of being other, of being ‘othered’, and ultimately of being oneself/selves.

There were lovely songs, from Mama Alto, of course, plus emerging diva Mx Monroe overcoming their nerves to soar. Miss Bailee Rose playfully subverted Asian feminine stereotypes with ragged red fans and sequins. A Sandy Stone-like Fury in a dressing gown held a cuppa and reflected on their, and our, moving above all that we were once so sure of. Aerialist Mahla Bird thrilled in a double act of metaphor with performer Quinn Eades. Gentle poet Nevo Zisin reassured the audience that they were indeed the ‘gender whisperer’, and Samoan Fa’afafine woman Amao Leota Lua danced her story of transformation.

Mama Alto and Ned Dixon in Gender Euphoria. Photo by Alexis Desaulniers-Lea.

A highlight for me was Harvey Zeilinski in silk boxers, talking about his earlier relationship with math and sport. It was a measured monologue punctuated by boxing feints, a beautifully distilled account of forming one’s identity, where what was left unsaid sang loud.

Musical director Ned Dixon accompanied the group on piano, and a glorious fitting crescendo was created by the group singing Anohni’s You Are My Sister.

Gender Euphoria was a one-off and it would have been good to see first night nerves on the part of some of the performers morph into second night triumph. But the show itself was triumphant – honest, unpretentious, touching, and a vital celebration.

It was a privilege to be there. ALL ARE STARS!

Rating: 3 ½ stars ★★★☆
Gender Euphoria

Midsumma Festival 2019
Co-created by Mama Alto and Maude Davey
Directed by Maude Davey
Musical director Ned Dixon
Cast: Amao Leota Lu, Miss Bailee Rose, Fury, Harvey Zeilinski, Mahla Bird, Mama Alto, Mx Munro, Ned Dixon, Nevo Zisin and Quinn Eades

24 January 2019
Arts Centre, Melbourne 

Liza Dezfouli

Tuesday 29 January, 2019

About the author

Liza Dezfouli reviews film, live performance, books and occasionally music. She blogs about film and other things in a blog called Copy and Cake and writes another, somewhat less-measured blog about feminism and heteronormativity called WhenMrWrongfeelsSoRight. She can occasionally be seen in shows or in short films. For more: www.lizadezfouli.com.