Walking to Sydney’s Opera house on a chilly Wednesday evening, I’m a little worried. Running late, I weaved through a sea of dopey Doras who were captivated by the stunning lights of Sydney’s Vivid Festival while I think about Karen O’s new show: Stop the Virgens. Sure, Virgens is spelt differently, but has Karen O succumbed to Christianity? Based on the title and previous Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ performances, I was expecting giant glitter cannons exploding over the audience, paired with elaborate costumes…now I’m thinking of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat…see my religious concerns are justified! Still, I expected a momentous production to prove Florence Welch is a wimp by comparison.
So-called socialites charged up on champagne were more irritating than Carly Rae Jepsen as they casually strolled into the Opera Theatre. To our surprise, a greeting party was waiting our arrival. Calmly perched centre stage was a cold matriarchal figure heavily draped in navy blue, accompanied by a haunting youth in stark white peasant clothing. It was a pre-show show (or an extreme threat to turn off our phones) that opened the audience’s sense to encounter obscurity and darkness.
A projection of bare white trees shone over a black chiffon curtain perfectly illustrated ghastly isolation and ambiguity. Rising tensions were quickly shattered by Karen O’s distinct voice and brazen band, who together cast a bold black shadow over the Opera Theatre. Balanced by contemporary characters and a choir, who are essentially live set pieces throughout the production, they precisely portray themes from the songs and music. Surrounded by a full band boasting the likes of Nick Zinner, Brian Chase and Money Mark, Karen O and her all female Virgens are idolised on a raised oval stage that overlooks the orchestra.
Minimal dark imagery, sound of howling winds, and the dramatic authoritarian females are dominant features throughout. Seamlessly, the story travels through peaks and troughs as the Virgens encounter the hardships of youth, identity, and the valuable lessons learnt through consequence. Visuals and costumes continued to change, exploring a negative forest, a psychedelic garden, and an introspective underwater escape to accurately mirror conflicting emotions, turmoil and pain experienced and inflicted by the Virgens as they naturally develop and mature as individuals and as a group. Resulting in a joyous celebration of achievement and forgiveness, Stop the Virgens ends as a unified and enlightened collective celebrating the love shared within their isolated community.
By now you’re thinking, “So WTF is it actually about?”. Well, don’t be alarmed because that’s basically it, unless you want a detailed thesis deconstructing the themes and characters like a HSC English exam. It’s best related to your favourite Anime film, whereby weird shit happens and you’re somehow educated and a better person for it as a result. All you need to remember is Karen O’s debut stage production incorporated inventive costumes, minimal but effective stage design, and a bunch of superb, unreleased songs to create an unforgettable production. Gladly with no religious connotations, but that’s just my opinion.
Check out photos from the show here.