Jean Tong, producer and co-writer of Romeo is Not the Only Fruit, stated during the Q&A after the final show, “there’s never a non-political moment when you’re not a white person”. As such, let it be a truth universally acknowledged that Romeo’s writer is a queer person of colour, and will thus be in want of a politically-charged theatre show.
Romeo is Not the Only Fruit is the debut full-length theatrical feature from DisColourNation, a theatre group of students of colour created to challenge the lack of diversity in roles within theatre productions. Working as a collective, they created their first production, The Unbearable Whiteness of Being, through University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) Creative Arts department program Tastings, a showcase of original short works by students. This production won the Best Direction Award from Union House Theatre in 2016, and was highly regarded as well as highly controversial.
In quite the opposite stance, Romeo is Not the Only Fruit tackles the diversity issue in a much more light-hearted way. The show samples multiple works from the heteronormative canon and mish-mashes them together. The result is a delightful hour filled with classical love tropes, the obligatory Greek chorus, and an irreverent look into the casual violence done towards queer characters in popular media. The show managed to tick off many theatrical boxes required in a regular musical, while simultaneously questioning the need for and validity of these tropes.
This is not to say that all these boxes were ticked in an entirely satisfactory way. The delivery of many lines seemed to be a bit rushed due to the start-of-the-show jitters. Many of the jokes also seemed to be inside jokes, more hilarious to the rehearsed cast than the first-time audience. During the parts where the humour dies down to make way for a more serious undertone of the show, the tension became slightly awkward as the drama and tragedy never really reaches the same apex that the comedy managed to be. Even the ending, the reclaiming of a memetic demi-god of a song into a plea to reject the commonplace murder of gay characters in media, fall somewhere in the awkward, confusing zone of accidental or premeditated hilarity.
Amidst all this, the show remained a product of love and hate, which showed through the whole evening. There was a lot of care and effort put into this rebellion against the popular media. The comedy is clever, even if it isn’t flawless, and the audience enjoyed it immensely. Song choices, anachronistic outfit decisions, and set design were made with very clear targets in mind. However, these choices would benefit from more clarity in the play itself, for although many of these decisions were apparent throughout the show, many more were only revealed in the after show Q&A. This seemed to deny two thirds of the show’s total audience a chance to fully experience the production.
Ultmately, Romeo is Not the Only Fruit is a good show. More than that, it is a necessary show, made to question and challenge many deep-rooted ideas that should not be fallen back upon in the current times. Queer deaths should not be a common thing, in media or in real life. Positive diverse representation should be more commonly seen, especially in media. And while Romeo is Not the Only Fruit is far from being perfect, its satire of popular tropes and intersectional approach towards theatre is a great and necessary step towards an ideal narrative of diversity.
Rizqy Bayuaji Aryadi
DisColourNation’s Romeo is Not the Only Fruit ran from May 4th-6th.
Image credit: Sue Lyn Ting