SPANNING 40 years, ABC’s biopic Carlotta tells the story of the iconic drag performer and Australian trans* pioneer.

Born Richard Byron in Balmain Sydney, Carol — as she came to be known struggled with her identity and fought intolerance within family and the wider community.

Carol rose to prominence as Carlotta, the lead performer in the ‘Les Girls’ cabaret show in Sydney’s Kings Cross.

Director Samantha Lang and writer David Hannam have done well presenting the struggles that Richard and eventually Carol/Carlotta went through in her life, but this reviewer felt it lacked a little bit of depth.

We see Richard struggle as a teenager at home, but it would have seen nice to see what life was also like outside the home, like at school. Were there any friends and/or boyfriends?

The film also presents Richard as someone who likes to dress in women’s clothes and perform in drag, but it did not really delve into the deeper issue of why Carol wanted to become a woman.

Aside from this, the film does present a fascinating portrait of the gay night life during the 1960s and 1970s and the struggles they went through. It also looks at the rise of drag acts and how they were coming to be accepted in the mainstream.

Much like the casting of Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, Lang chose a woman, Jessica Marais, to portray Carlotta.

Marais gives a commanding performance as the main character, where she comes to inhabit the character so much that all you see is Carlotta.

Equally as good is Anita Hegh as Carlotta’s mother Faye. You can really see this woman struggling to accept Carlotta for what she is. It is like she wants to love her child but societal pressures are forcing her not to.

Eamon Farren gives an equally emotional performance as Carlotta’s best friend Danny who struggles alongside her for acceptance and love. Meanwhile, Caroline O’Connor gives a scene-stealing performance as the choreographer of the ‘Les Girls’ show.

The DVD, which is out now, also features many behind the scenes features which show the many transformations that take place.


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