Adelaide Fringe 2020: The Hipster– a musical for people who don’t like musicals

Scaled hipsterlogowebsite

Who: Soundbowl Productions

Where: Little Bang Brewing Company

When: Until 17 March

Tickets: $35, here

As far as hipsters go, I’m one of those self-deprecating types. I enjoy laughing at my own affinity for avocado on toast, industrial lighting, craft gins, and laneway coffee shops. I had high hopes that ‘The Hipster—a musical for people who don’t like musicals’ would provide me with a fun satirical expose of my own clichéd tastes and of Australian hipster culture in general. Regrettably, it pretty much entirely failed to deliver. Despite a strong cast and solid songwriting, the show was lacking in laughs and cleverness and frequently made little sense.

I don’t want to be a total negative Nancy, so I’ll start with the good. The performance was accompanied by a funky live band that sounded excellent throughout. (At many points, I was more interested in the band than what was happening on stage.) I was also genuinely impressed at the vocal calibre of the cast. They all had strong, dynamic Broadway voices that carried off complex harmonies and big show notes beautifully.

Unfortunately, the songs were stitched together with a messy script that lacked wit, originality, or humour. It was packed with the same old clichés about hipster culture that already felt tired years ago (isn’t it hilarious that hipsters don’t use proper chairs? And they love moustaches and craft beer!). I was bored by the predictable, trite observations about Adelaide (everything is on at the same time of the year! Farmers Union is great?) And please note: joking that white people think ‘all Asians are Japanese’ has been cringe-y for a long time, especially if you do nothing new or original with the material. It was honestly a little painful to hear each dull punchline fall flat amongst the conspicuously quiet audience.

The plot was equally scattered and inconsistent. There were some lessons about gentrification, racial stereotyping, and being authentic to yourself, but they were buried by too-long songs and bizarre distractions. There were so many things about the play I just didn’t understand. Why did the stripper keep picking up and dropping a strong Filipina accent at random? What was with the odd gameshow sequence? Why did the character of Seb disappear only for it to be randomly announced at the end that he died? Why did they briefly allude to the protagonist’s sexuality and never follow it up? What was the stripper’s song even about?

I have to give props to the cast for committing 110% to their roles; they all brought ample energy and enthusiasm. They’re obviously highly skilled performers. Unfortunately, they just had such poor material to work with. I think the same concept could be executed brilliantly with a totally different script by a strong comedy writer. Better luck next time, folks.

2/5 stars

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