Theatre Review: Xenides is a Timely Celebration of a Tragic Life
This may be showing my age a bit, but I was too young remember ever watching Adriana Xenides on The Wheel of Fortune during her colossal nineteen year stint. So, I went into Black Swan’s Xenides curious, but uninformed. And thankfully, this superb production was more than enough to win me over.
As the title suggests, this not-quite-a-musical, not-quite-a-play explores the life of Adriana Xenides, an Australian TV star who held the world record for the longest time spent co-hosting a tv show. As the letter-turner of Wheel of Fortune, she wore some 4000+ dresses, turned 200,000 vowels, and walked 500km… in heels. Despite the staggering numbers, hers was a life drenched in tragedy, suffering from mental and physical health issues and a dramatic private life that saw become an infamous favourite of tabloid media. She died in 2010 at 54 years of age from a ruptured intestine.
(Photos by Dana Weeks)
But, as much as the show serves to honour her legacy, it’s more than just a biography. Xenides is almost just as much about the fabulous cast as it is the titular heroine. Stars Adriane Daff, Harriet Marshall, Laila Bano Rind, and Katherine Tonkin all work their own struggles and triumphs into the personal history of Xenides to great effect. This elevates the show into something much greater than the sum of its parts; it becomes a heartfelt commentary on the struggles faced by women all around the world, with each individual sharing stories of overcoming adversity, just as Xenides did in her lifetime. This makes it an enticing production, blurring the lines between reality and drama while never forgetting to celebrate the real-life tragic hero.
There is so much to laud with this production beyond a stellar premise and script. The performances of the aforementioned cast members are all spectacular, each complementing the other with some entertaining acting, singing and dancing throughout. The songs, composed for the show by Xani Kolac (with some choice covers) and performed by Kolac, Djuna Lee and Holly Norman, are wonderfully written and performed, enhancing the mood of each part in the way only music can. Finally, the stage design courtesy of Zoe Atkinson is top-class, while the lighting and costumes from Richard Vabre and Sarah Duyvestyn respectively are the cherry on top to setting a strong atmosphere.
Xenides is bound to get you on Adriana Xenides’ side with its endless passion and compassion. Much like the play it’s been paired with, it’s also likely to really get the conversation going.