Amity Dry’s 39 Forever (Chapel off Chapel) – theatre review

On stage in her cabaret show 39 Forever, Amity Dry is funny and empowered. It’s hard to believe that back in 2003 this versatile performer shot to prominence in the first season of The Block. Now on a fun girls’ night out (with a few new age sensitive guys in tow), Amity charms us with a combination of fear, humour and homespun wisdom. She chats and she warbles (very nicely) accompanied by musical director Jamie Burgess on keyboard (together with the odd vocal and aside).

Dressed in a long gold dress, she tells her life story from when she was born in Adelaide in 1978, “when she always wanted to be older”, to how she is today: embracing what’s next as a mother of two just turned 40. Back in the day she wore a home perm fringe (as she puts it up top she looked like “a cat had coughed up a hair ball”) and purple eyeliner. Her heroes were John Farnham and Kylie Minogue. For her 10th birthday a “ghetto blaster” was all the go, as was Beverly Hills 90210 and really earnest love songs.

She talks about the perfect soundtrack to her life in her teens and how the ‘90s was all about girl power. For her this included a move to Sydney – and what it was like as an 18-year-old.

Amity eventually fell in love with a guy and started going to parties with women in their ‘30s. She offered herself as a baby sitter – in that bracket of the show there are a couple of delightful one liners. With her first child came the inevitable sleep deprivation and lack of dignity associated with the infant’s bodily functions.

But the ultimate indignity didn’t occur until her mid 30s when a walk through David Jones’ department store yielded an overture for anti-aging cream. At 39, she decided to shut the door on birthday celebrations and with it on the ageing process, owning up to some quandaries about Botox. Before we finish though she embraces the next chapter of her life, letting us in on a little secret.

Amity’s strong vocals include popular tunes such as Kylie’s “I Should Be So Lucky”, New Kids on the Block “Step By Step” and Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”. Two Alanis Morissette numbers – “Ironic” and “You Oughta Know” – also get a look in.

Amity has rewritten the lyrics to a couple of songs to suit the mood of her banter – all of which works – and finishes with two original tracks (“See Me” and “It Begins”).

There’s a lot of bonhomie in the room. Amity readily relates to the audience with an easy going smile from her set of perfectly formed pearly white teeth. 39 Forever is filled with poignant reflections, charisma, wit and self-deprecating humour. It is a performance that allows us to fall in love with Amity Dry all over again.

It’s playing at Chapel off Chapel until 22 April 2018, as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Alex First

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