It’s not often that an online blurb for a Fringe show will do the show justice, but the copy for Hannah Malarski’s Big Dyke Energy is a surprising exception.
The one woman show (notwithstanding a charming guest appearance from Malarski’s partner) ‘explores the pressures of being a queer woman in 2023’. Case in point: audiences walk into North Melbourne’s Club Voltaire to behold a towering Carabiner covered in glitter; a monolithic testament to that oh so Sapphic totem.
Part-stand up, sketch comedy and confessional monologue, the show that follows is effectively an assemblage of loosely related scenes based around Malarski’s personal experience of coming out, meeting her partner and catfishing her ex. There are moments of real genius peppered throughout the sixty-minute performance, but they’re too often obscured by an overwritten script and an incohesive structure.
It whittles down to the fact that it’s unclear what Malarski wants to say, though she says a lot. The online blurb offers some answers: ‘What is Big Dyke Energy? A badass b*tch.’ But then it’s also about ‘confidence that is unassuming but infectious’ and ‘a relaxed woman.’ Later on we read that its about ‘anyone who has ever felt like they were scared to reveal their whole self’. These descriptions, like the show they describe, are simply too scattered to follow.
Decked out in a bright red dog-tooth paint suit, Malarski begins with a dance number and a stand up routine. Despite a lighting issue, she remains charming and warm; a self-admitted ‘no-fucks-given-queer’ thirty-something. She delivers some winning lines and sketches. A ‘sun safety’ rap and a David-Attenborough style meet cute with carabiner choreography was a particular highlight.
But pacing overall is slow and it’s hard to follow the logic that connects skits where Malarski moonlights as a Silicon Valley version of Mother Nature peddling oxygen (and sporting an accent best described as a South African Moira Rose) to a eulogy for Malarski where she confronts her negative self-image, for instance.
For the final scene of the show, she recounts a time when she catfished her ex. It’s funny, though languorous, and then it’s sermonic. In a previous sketch, Malarski had offered a quick lesson in Zoomer vocabulary: ‘rizz’, ‘touch grass’, ‘it’s giving’. It was a good sketch, even if it recycled some tired tropes of generational resentment.
But ironically it’s from Zoomers that we find the perfect term to name what is wrong with the show’s concluding monologue: ‘Millennial Cringe’. The term is a shorthand for the brand of twee earnestness that, for the young generation who have mastered self-irony, is a bullyable offence.
The monologue that concludes Big Dyke Energy features nuggets of inspiration and some genuinely affecting reminders for queer people to love themselves. But, much like the rest of the show, it is simply too long and too scattered with its metaphors to land its commendable moral and we leave the theatre in the shadow of that glittering behemoth of a carabiner, disappointed.
Big Dyke Energy
Club Voltaire, 14 Raglan Street, North Melbourne
Performance: Monday 9 October 2023
Season continues to 14 October 2023
Information and Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au
Image: Hannah Malarski stars in Big Dyke Energy – photo by Gigi Shaw & Ash Goodison
Review: Guy Webster