The Lyin’ Queen: a theme park gone wild!

Todd McKenney and Trevor Ashley in The Lyin' Queen at Sydney Opera House. Image: supplied.

The irrepressible Trevor Ashley emerges from the heart of darkness, bellowing like Tarzan and looking like Jane, to present a volcanic hot mess of song, dance, parody and vulgarity in The Lyin’ Queen. He spoke with Rita Bratovich about his upcoming show. 

“I am excited. I love this show and I can’t wait to do it!” says Trevor Ashley with palpable enthusiasm in his voice. 

The past few months have been tumultuous, riddled with uncertainty, anxiety, frustration. 

“It’s been boring,” says Ashley, succinctly capturing the sentiment. 

What better response to all those months of restrictions, rules, and cultural famine than The Lyin’ Queen? It is unrestricted, breaks all the rules and is a cultural feast.

Brendan Irving (left), Trevor Ashley and dinosaur (right) in The Lyin’ Queen. Image: John McRae/supplied.

Ashley reprises his role as heroine Gaye Wray, a resentfully unemployed soapie star living overseas, far away from her Robodebt. She is coaxed back home by billionaire, Dr Richard Rabbitborough (played by Todd McKenney), who has built a theme park on a tropical island and wants Wray to star in the promos. Things go awry for Wray and co when a powerful storm wreaks havoc and destruction and allows main attraction, King Schlong, to escape. 

It’s a raunchy, chaotic pantomime with a bucket-load of pop culture references.

“Most of the things we joke about are very well known things. There’s very little that people won’t understand. I think, if you’ve seen Jurassic Park you’ll understand how the show is. And after that, if you’ve seen an episode of Home and Away ever, you’ll know what I’m talking about most of the time. I think this one is very accessible,” assures Ashley. 

Written with long time collaborator Phil Scott, The Lyin’ Queen bases a lot of its humour on current political and social issues. Only a handful of shows had been performed before the season was interrupted due to lockdown. During the long hiatus things in the political and social sphere had changed radically, meaning the show’s content needed to be updated. 

The wild and wonderful cast of The Lyin’ Queen Image: John McRae/supplied.

“Oh completely! I’ve had to do a complete rewrite. So Phil and I sat down over the last few weeks and just rewrote the whole show. It’s so funny, with topical comedy, you lose so many things,” explains Ashley, adding that there was also some new territory to explore.

“Who’d have thought we could make jokes about the different premiers of the different states and anyone would know who they are?”

Ashley is thrilled to be joined on stage by Todd McKenney, who was a late cast announcement, as well as Shauntelle Benjamin, Shannon Dooley and Brendan Irving, all of whom are incredible talents in their own right. 

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Behind the scenes is a crew of equal merit: renowned choreographer Cameron Mitchell, who has worked on four shows with Ashley; Gavan Swift on lighting; and Angie White on costume design. The latter two both worked with Ashley on Heathers: The Musical

“Angie’s costumes for this are pretty spectacular because there’s puppets and parody costumes, it’s just really clever the way she’s done it. And Gav’s lighting’s beautiful,” says Ashley.  

It’s quite a big production, with elaborate sets, realistic(ish) dinosaurs and a giant … attraction. 

“It’s pretty filthy, you know, and there are some filthy references, and yes – King Schlong does appear, so, you know … it goes there!” explains Ashley. 

It’s not a family show. Tickets are restricted to people aged 18 and over. 

However, don’t be misled into believing it’s all just bawdy shenanigans. The dancing, singing, design and even acrobatics make this production an exceptional theatre experience.

The Lyin’ Queen will make its encore appearance in a manner worthy of a diva – under the iconic sails of the Sydney Opera House, much to Ashley’s delight.  

“Oh I love it! And I love this particular theatre – The Studio is my favourite. And I haven’t performed in there for a long time – not since I did Liza there.”

The Lyin’ Queen is pure, unfettered entertainment and a perfect way to finally exit from the long winter of hibernation. The season is limited, so heed this warm and genuine invitation by one of Australia’s most extraordinary talents: “I hope that everyone can come and join me and celebrate, hopefully, the end of this whole thing, and the fact that we can all be back in the theatre, we can all be back laughing and having a great life, and we can all be ready for summer, which will be fabulous!”

The Lyin’ Queen is on for 12 shows only from Tuesday, 30 November to Sunday, 12 December 2021 at The Studio, Sydney Opera House. Tickets from $79. Bookings at sydneyoperahouse.com or (02) 9250 0077.

Rita Bratovich is the arts and entertainment editor of the Sydney Sentinel.