Beloved cabaret show ‘First Wives Pub’ is a hilarious take on a woman’s romantic journey

Beloved cabaret show ‘First Wives Pub’ is a hilarious take on a woman’s romantic journey

First Wives Pub
Words by Augustus Welby

First Wives Pub comes to Chapel Off Chapel for three consecutive nights beginning Friday November 1.

The cabaret performance charts the various stages of a woman’s romantic journey, from dating to being in a relationship, and planning a wedding to the ups and downs of married life.

First Wives Pub is a Red Brassiere production written by Haylee Deutrom-Wakeling and brought to life in collaboration with Kelley Kerr Young, Rebecca Nol and music director and pianist Roni Shewan. It’s the production’s second run, having premiered at the Butterfly Club in 2016.

“Haylee and Kelley met through their partners, who later became their husbands. They were both performers and they decided they wanted to work together and do something in the future,” says Shewan. “They basically, one night, noticed the Butterfly Club were taking submissions and so they were like, ‘This is a sign, let’s write something together’.”

Deutrom-Wakeling and Kerr Young were both planning weddings at the time, which gave them plenty of inspiration for the content of their collaboration. First Wives Pub’s three core cast members take on the roles of a Success, a Princess and a Hot Mess.

“They’re kind of caricatures of women,” says Shewan. “All of us have been that person at one stage in the dating journey, whether you’ve idealised relationships from a young age and [have] been planning a wedding, to being focused on your career or being a bit of a mess where you don’t know what you’re doing and you go out a lot. We’ve all been that person. They’re different representations of the single woman, I guess.”

Compared to its initial instalment, First Wives Pub now has a longer running time and will feature a couple of extra scenes. Songs from the likes of Amy Winehouse, The Gossip, Cyndi Lauper and Divinyls will feature, reworked for the cabaret format.

“Within the play, each scene is a different stage in the character’s dating life,” says Shewan. “So we wanted songs that represent the dialogue and what the characters are going through in that particular stage.

“[The songs will] be recognisable, to an extent, but they’re not like covers. Piano is the accompaniment and vocals are the centre. Because all of those songs are recorded with bands and in studios, to get the best out of the song I had to rearrange them and readapt them to that more intimate cabaret setting.”

The name Red Brassiere is borrowed from the Divinyls song, ‘Boys In Town’, and the company describes itself as “theatre by women for everyone”. Its productions always put forth feminist ideas, often laced with humour.

“One thing that we really like about this company and Haylee’s writing is that it’s basically feminism in a more accessible way,” says Shewan. “Rather than lecturing people or throwing it down their throats, it’s done in a hilarious sort of way.”

First Wives Pub uses comedy to get its points across, but there is some darkness in the underlying themes, too. The rise and fall of the Princess character is a key example.

“Her journey goes from someone who’s planned her wedding since she was five to, at the end, you feel quite sad for her and where she’s ended up. It’s basically, through comedy, showing how women can be sold this idea of meeting the perfect guy and getting married and how that’s something to aspire to. And often they can reach that goal and realise it’s not what they thought it would be and that there’s a whole lot of other paths they could’ve gone down. 

“We explore a lot of ideas around femininity and what it means to be a woman and whether you can have it all, but we do it in a way that’s not overly angry. Anyone can go to this show and find something in it for them, but there is a feminist message in there.”

First Wives Pub comes to Chapel off Chapel from Friday November 1 until Sunday November 3. Tickets via the venue website.