Em Rusciano in ‘Divorce – The Musical’
Em Rusciano @ Garden of Unearthly Delights – Paradiso Spiegeltent
7:00pm, Sat 8 Mar 2014
It was a bit of a mad dash after the previous show, and while my friend was parking her car I snaffled her ticket from the Garden box office. Then to the bar, where I acquired the requisite drinks and thence waited for her to arrive… and waited. And waited.
The rest of the crowd had already entered the Paradiso and I’d progressed to chatting amiably with the ticketeer on the door when my friend arrived; in the hurried flurry of limbs and objects that follow, a piece of chewing gum arced through the air to land perfectly on the ticket being brandished to facilitate entry. There’s much laughing and apologising and blushing and laughing before we scurried in, miraculously finding two seats near the front on an aisle (a fortuitous bit of pre-planning, as I knew I needed a quick escape at the end of the show).
There’s a frenzied cloud of fabric as Em Rusciano takes to the stage, glittering white wedding dress cut very short, greeting the crowd with a gleeful “What’s up, Bitches?” She pokes fun at the gender inequality of the crowd – “It’s Spot-the-Cock in here tonight, isn’t it?” she quipped, before pointing to a man sitting in the front row and declaring “Homo.”
Now, I knew nothing about Em Rusciano prior to tonight’s show… but it was clear that there were a few hundred people who were quite familiar with her. Still, there must have been a little pandering in her material to people like me: the odd mention of appearing on Australian Idol, of having worked on (and sacked by) the Austereo Network, and – most importantly – there was a lot of talk around her titular divorce. And she creates a real sense of connection as she describes the breakdown of her marriage – the frustration and anger – and then (to the pained gasps from the audience) how her expectations of reconciliation were shot down. The moving-back-home stories that followed were pure gold, and there were plenty of other humorous asides: nipple hair, kids’ school performances, and her return to the dating scene all provided solid laughs.
Divorce! was most certainly entertaining – Em’s well-paced storytelling, uproarious personality, and legion of screaming fangirls certainly saw to that. And she’s certainly got a singing voice (ably demonstrated by a P!nk song – “for all my lesbian fans”), though her songs were more often snippets – except for Wrecking Ball, which stood out in that it felt way too long. But the heart of Divorce! is the interaction between father and daughter onstage: Vincie, Rusciano’s dad, provides guitar accompaniment (and the odd mumble of support) for most of the show, and Vincie’s responses to Em’s onstage antics seemed to be equal parts pride and begrudging acceptance. And that made for a bloody fun performance… maybe not one that I’d choose to re-visit, truth be told, but one that I’m certainly glad I experienced.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 8, 2014