Supernatural feminist fable comes of age

Moral Panic ★★★½
By Rachel Perks and Bridget Balodis
Northcote Town Hall, until November 24

Feminist parable, supernatural quest and queer coming-of-age story combine in this striking new play with an offbeat edge.

Moral Panic riffs off witchcraft. On one level it’s like an updated, queer episode of Charmed – and the script is postmodern enough to delight in extensive references to witches in popular culture – and on another it’s a feminist call to arms, with magic as a source of female resistance reclaimed from a history of oppression.

Eva Seymour as Evie in Moral Panic at Northcote Town Hall.

Eva Seymour as Evie in Moral Panic at Northcote Town Hall. Credit:Sarah Walker

It begins with the town mayor (Chanella Macri), a seething and self-satisfied incarnation of patriarchy, inveighing against witches, going postal with misogyny as he is transformed into, you guessed it, a woman.

The prologue dissolves into a central buddy story: Andy (Kai Bradley) and Evie (Eva Seymour) are two teenage girls in a forest. They’ve brought a cup of menstrual blood and a digital Ouija board with them, determined to cast a spell to save Evie’s aunt Callista (Jennifer Vuletic) from domestic violence.

Their curse on Evie’s uncle needs more juice to work, so Andy invites the mayor’s daughter Sue-Anne (Macri) along. Amid queer courtship, teen angst and relationship melodrama, the three invoke the aid of murdered witches and when Callista finally arrives, they must embark on a terrifying dream-quest to right past wrongs.

Rachel Perks and Bridget Balodis have created an engaging story and the cast invests the characters with a winning mix of adolescent naivety and jaded charm. Seymour has a slightly gothic, Rose McGowan from Charmed, thing going on. Bradley grins with mischief and bewilderment, wading through the confusion of sexuality before learning how to swim. And Macri will be a comic heavyweight in the future, I suspect, her instincts and timing are so sharp.

Finally, Vuletic is the ideal performer to take the action into supernatural terrain, creating a lurid sense of the uncanny, often punctured by camp deflation.

You feel like you could binge-watch a spin-off on Netflix and the design and performance style offer plenty of bewitching moments. If there’s a criticism, it’s that the poignant, funny teen soap works better than the stretch for surreal political theatre that emerges from it.

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