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The sisters of mercy
It’s a long way from a disused underground car park on the wrong side of Collingwood to the Sydney Theatre Company (STC) stage, but that’s the journey taken by Little Mercy, the Sydney debut for cult queer theatre duo Declan Greene and Ash Flanders (AKA Sisters Grimm).
The production debuted in the aforementioned oh-so-Melbourne space several years ago before the hometown buzz around Sisters Grimm spread north and caught the attention of those at the STC.
The show, like much of the pair’s work, is a filthily funny exercise in genre, playfully sending up possessed children, hysterical women and other classic horror tropes. It also marks Flanders’ second lead role in this town as a ‘Woman On The Verge’, a few short months after his star turn as deranged teen Chicklet in director Stephen Nicolazzo’s brilliant Psycho Beach Party. Typecasting?
“Well, all I hear in that word is ‘casting,’ which means I’m getting work! I dream of having a typecasting problem,” Flanders told the Star Observer.
“[Psycho] was my debutante but this is my wedding. I love playing any part, though it seems the idea of me as a pretty woman is so inherently funny that I may do this for as long as they’ll let me – hey, it worked for Shelley Duvall.”
Flanders plays Virginia Summers, a neurotic housewife who, along with her theatre director husband Roger (Luke Mullins), takes delivery of a young orphan girl named Mercy she plans to raise as her very own. Things don’t go quite to plan though and, while no one else can see it, Virginia’s convinced her new daughter is actually the spawn of Satan.
If that all sounds slightly ludicrous, try this on for size: eight-year-old Mercy is played by septuagenarian actress Jill McKay.
“We’re always really into miscasting our shows… Men play women, women play men, cats play transsexuals,” Greene explained.
“We decided quite early that in Little Mercy, the character of our eight-year-old child murderess would be played by an actor in her seventies. Of course, it’s not terribly easy to find a senior actor who’s willing to scream ‘MOTHERFUCKER!’ in a demonic voice and vomit litres of green slime, but Jill McKay is brilliant – keen to do all that and more.”
“She’s insane in the best way,” Flanders continued.
“I guess we can only thank her family for waiting until after the season closes to have her committed.”
While this may be the first time many Sydneysiders have heard of the pair, Flanders and Greene have garnered quite a reputation in their hometown. Sure, both have made a mark individually – Flanders as an actor, Greene as a playwright – but there’s a certain kind of wonderfully trashy magic that only occurs when they join forces as Sisters Grimm.
“We’re the poster children for gay marriage, because if we can make this work, anyone can. It is a great working relationship in that when we don’t always see eye to eye we know better than to be total dicks about it,” said Flanders.