BOMBSHELLS doesn’t drop many, but stars an extraordinary bombshell in the form of Caroline O’Connor. This pretty much sums up the evening.

Bombshells is told through six monologues written by Joanna Murray-Smith, author of the intriguing Love Child and the absolutely ripping Honour, one of the few Australian plays to make it to Broadway.

Caroline O’Connor plays a frazzled housewife, a cacti-obsessed cuckold, a precocious schoolgirl hoofer, a hysterical bride-to-be, a sexually liberated widow and a Minnelli-esque cabaret diva.

Her success rate at these individual performances is mixed, but taken as a whole O’Connor is truly impressive. Blessed like Liza with an interesting face (as Peter Allen put it), it’s spooky how O’Connor is able to look completely different in every role, playing characters from their teens to their sixties.

This versatility is a testament to O’Connor’s acting skill, something that’s often less of a focus than her considerable knack for musical theatre. Star performances in Chicago and the film Moulin Rouge, coupled with her distinctive looks and brassy persona (plus the fact she’s about to appear as Ethel Merman in an upcoming biopic of Cole Porter), immediately qualify O’Connor as a major gay icon.

This is both a compliment and a curse. One straight colleague expressed little interest in seeing the show because she’s just not my thing, as if O’Connor was drag, or amyl, rather than an actor.

The fact that Bombshells was written for O’Connor also carries inherent problems, epitomising the pitfalls that come with made-to-order playwriting.

For instance in the final monologue O’Connor staggers about as a washed-up, drug-fucked diva doing cabaret -“ a neat parody of a future the real-life O’Connor will hopefully avoid. It’s a sublime piece of physical theatre and O’Connor is brilliant at it, but it lacks the confessional drive of the other speeches because her hammy character is lying to us (as bad cabaret performers often do).

Still, if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about with this unique actor, then buy a ticket and have fun learning. Bombshells goes off.

INFO: Bombshells by Joanna Murray-Smith is playing at the York Theatre, Seymour Centre, cnr City Rd and Cleveland St, Chippendale until 22 May. Phone 9929 0644.

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