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Sex, Lies and Betrayal - Melbourne Fringe

Karla Hillam

A little bit of sex, some lies and a hint of betrayal.

Memoirs of a mysterious Hollywood star at the Melbourne Fringe.

Walking into the theatre at the Butterfly club, we’re instantly transported to the 40s.

The set makes perfect use of the space (design by Christina Logan-Bell) and the lighting (JB Lighting Designs Australia) and music invites you into the world.

Karla Hillam stars in this one woman show written and directed by Margaret Fisk AM.

Karla thoroughly encompases a 1940s Hollywood star. She looks incredible and special props to the wig (Tamed by Trent Ashley), it is exceptional.

The show is about the memoirs of an unnamed Hollywood star, who goes by the pseudonym of Miss Nightingale. There are hints throughout the show that Miss Nightingale could be based on a real person, but we are not privy to further information.

We hear stories of her sexual exploits, multiple husbands, affairs and abortions, as they are being told to someone on the other end of the phone she talks on.

It’s never clear who this other person is, but one can assume it’s a publisher or a writer that Miss Nightingale is telling her debaucherous story to.

Miss Nightingale is on the phone more than off and this is a bit distancing for the audience. If the phone call was established early in the piece, and then forgotten, the show would have been easier to digest, as it felt like there was a third character that no one else connected to and this was distracting and felt like the audience was left behind, making it more difficult to enjoy the story.

In terms of story, there isn’t much of a throughline and we don’t see the character go through many changes. The men she speaks of all blend together and are difficult to discern one from the other.

Musical direction, orchestrations and arrangements are by Ned Wright-Smith. We are treated to songs of Cole Porter, Bobby Darin and Frank Sinatra as well as a blend of contemporary songs in the style of the 40s from Christina Aguilara, KD Lang and Amy Winehouse. These songs all fit together and keep us cemented in the era. Some late additions however, distract from the 40s and don’t fit the style of the show. There wasn’t an attempt to make songs from Waitress and Evancesance fit the style.

The production would have benefitted from having the sound levels fixed. The microphone peaked/distorted a lot during the bigger notes while it was too quiet for some of the lower songs.

Overall Karla did a great job at holding the stage during this dialogue heavy show and should be commended for her commitment to the era. Her accent was on point and she had wonderful stage presence. The music blended quite seamlessly with the dialogue making the whole show flow quite well on a technical level.

If you are a fan of Hollywood in the 40s, this show is for you!


Sex, Lies and Betrayal is playing at The Butterfly Club until October 23 as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Tickets here

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