Review: HAIR @ Chapel Off Chapel

Let’s get one thing straight: if you’re conservative and/or uptight, this show is not right for you.

On the other hand, if smoking, cavorting, nudity, love-not-war and generally challenging the status quo sounds like fun, get ready for a wild ride. There are no boundaries in this show, both metaphorically and physically. In a physical sense, the show at Chapel Off Chapel does a great job at integrating and involving the audience. If you don’t like being touched, kissed, talked to by actors or asked to participate, don’t sit in the front row, or on the edges of the audience. You will be involved.

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This show is fun. It’s colourful, funky, the costuming is beautiful and the ensemble cast is on a constant high. There’s not a strong story or structure, which allows it to flow from character to character. The focus is on Claude (Ashley Rousetty), one of the “tribe”, who has been drafted. His parents want him to go, but all of his friends have dodged the draft. His is the only real storyline, as the rest of the musical looks at different characters fleetingly.

It’s hard to pick favourites in this show, as the whole cast is captivating. To be honest, I didn’t even get a program, so I’m not really sure who played who. Suffice to say, each member brought a youthful zeal to the show, giving the choreography and book a spontaneity and impetuousness that really sells the show.

In any case, what makes this show even more interesting is the fact that it was written in the 60s, but is still daring today. Sure, maybe Americans aren’t conscripted anymore, and there are more people of colour in musicals. But the show is surprising because it shows that parts of society haven’t changed in over four decades. In particular, the nude scene is evocative. It sounds amusing (and I won’t say that the cast isn’t attractive, because damn), but there is a kind of uncomfortableness about seeing a group of people slowly and solemnly undressing in front of you.

That scene was based on an anti-war protest in which two men took off their clothes to faze police, and can be seen as a comment on the fact that us humans as a general rule are far more comfortable with violence than with seeing the naked body.

This is one of the deeper issues explored in this musical. People who haven’t watched it may simply assume it’s about hippies smoking, but the truth is that it is thought-provoking, and with this cast, never dull. No doubt an American audience would better understand some of the concepts prevented (for example, the show’s disrespect of the American flag is something that Americans might gasp over, but we will only ever really have a vague understanding of its significance.)

At the end of the show, the audience is invited on stage to dance. Do it – you won’t regret it.

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Sharona Lin

Founder and editor-in-chief of Pop Culture-y. Also writes, works in the public service and watches a lot of TV. Graduated RMIT with a Bachelor of Communications in 2014.

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