Let’s get one thing straight immediately: if there is a target audience for this show, I am it. I spent my tween years infatuated with, and then cultivating tragic internalised-misogyny-meets-critical-disdain for, Twilight, and at a certain point my One Direction infection reached the height of looking over my best friend’s shoulder at her laptop as we (and hundreds, if not thousands, of girls like us) tracked the course of one of the band’s flights to Australia. Throw in the references to Wuthering Heights and Romeo + Juliet, as Liv Parker does in Vampires, Werewolves and Harry Styles, and you’ve got yourself an hour of comedy seemingly tailor-made for me.
The decor of the Basement Studio sets this up from the off: the stage is dressed with a single bed, complete with early-doors One Direction sheets; a bedside table, with a landline phone, two small figurines, a framed portrait of the titular pop star. Across the space, there are clothes on a hanger: various costumes and outfits, plaid shirts, sequined minidresses, Claire-Danes-as-Juliet-as-an-angel cosplay, themselves historical artefacts Parker will take us through over the hour. The fandom and pop cultural lineage of the show also feeds into its formal markers—segments are delineated by an undeniably fitting refrain from One Direction’s ‘Olivia’, and there’s a motif of increasingly exaggerated dream phone calls, which Parker carries off pitch-perfectly.
“She’s an embodied performer, and the show is at its best when she’s completely thrown herself into it. ”
Indeed, while I do wonder at times whether the show would hold up as well without the shared frame of reference, Parker’s delivery is certainly sufficient to sell the comedy regardless. One might get more of a kick out of her frantic, mile-a-minute recreation of Twilight’s iconic hospital scene (including a full-noise flashback to Twilight’s iconic Edward-having-to-suck-the-venom-out-of-the-bite-James-left-on-Bella’s-wrist-and-we-don’t-know-if-he’s-going-to-be-able-to-stop-but-he-does-stop scene) if we’re familiar with the film, but Parker’s almost-breathless, full-hearted approach provides ample humour on its own. She’s an embodied performer, and the show is at its best when she’s completely thrown herself into it. It’s this commitment—occasionally punctuated by an in-performance realisation of the audience, like the smoke of fanaticism has cleared, and Parker finds herself trying to play it off—that gets to the heart of the hour: somebody leaning with utter conviction into the minutiae of what (or who) they love.
Parker covers a lot of ground on this premise, expanding beyond Twilight and One Direction into the aforementioned Wuthering Heights (both Brontë and Bush) and Romeo + Juliet (with a brilliant homage to the fish tank, props included, and a nod between Leo and Harry Styles to boot), and also to Hayley Westenra (masterstroke!). It’s a very rich hour, both in form and content: the synopsis promises a ‘blend of sketch, clown, and Stage Challenge dance’, and Parker certainly delivers on all three. And it’s hard to predict where a show about unconditional and irrevocable love might draw to a close, but when we find ourselves faced with Parker in plain theatre blacks, gently parting ways with her litany of adolescent obsessions via notorious Love Actually placards, it does feel right.
It’s not that we grow up and forget these characters, practices, boyband members, or what they’ve meant to us at certain points in our lives. It’s not like we can toss aside formative parts of us, whether they were/are cool or not (and, really, who cares if ‘not’!). Perhaps instead we come into contact, as we get older, with opportunities to actualise what those obsessions represented for us: love, adventure, partnership, novelty, the opportunity for a life of abundance and agency. (As Parker notes, when breaking up with Edward, Harry, Heathcliffe, and all the rest: she has a boyfriend now!) And what joy in all of that.
Werewolves, Vampires, and Harry Styles is a packed, passionate first solo hour. Between each of its titular players, and then some—though there’s not much hope for Team Jacob—there’s a lot of love, and to love, in it.
Featured photo courtesy of Liv Parker and the NZ International Comedy Fest.