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Monday, June 27, 2022

Splintered review – queer Caribbean cabaret is a fantastic night of festivity and foolery | Theatre

A play that opens with a woman downing vodka from a Mooncup is hard to come by. Splintered, written and directed by Emily Aboud, is a fantastic night of festivity and foolery.

A charismatic trio – Chanté Faucher, Melissa Saint and Alice Vilanculo – are our teachers. “Welcome to Splintered everyone,” they shout. “Are you ready to come out?” Collectively, they educate us on the life of queer women in the Caribbean, reasoning that the homophobia embedded in their culture is founded in the legacy of colonialism. A mix of cabaret, drama and verbatim interviews, this blazing hybrid-form introduces us to their real stories. “Everything you see will be truthful,” the emcees swear.

Fast-paced and brimming with energy, this endlessly political show never stops being playful. In a gloriously queer twist on the song Cell Block Tango from Kander and Ebb’s Chicago, they click in time and whisper “relatable, gay, content”, while narrating the first moment they realised their sexualities. Even when their tales are stained by sadness and shame, it remains a comedy about joy.

Gloriously queer … from left: Chanté Faucher, Alice Vilanculo and Melissa Saint.
Gloriously queer … from left: Chanté Faucher, Alice Vilanculo and Melissa Saint. Photograph: Lidia Crisafulli

An expert in merging history lessons with humour, Aboud has created an audience-embracing celebration of the origins of Caribbean carnival. With the sequined costumes designed by Hazel Low and the dramatic accompaniment of the music from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, the defiantly flamboyant spirit of the festival is deeply woven into every directorial decision.

A final voiceover of a queer woman, unable to come out of hiding in Trinidad and Tobago, hits us with a shot of reality. You have to resist and rebel, the emcees say. The spectacular party continues, in spite of oppression.

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