The Margaret Fulton Cookbook was first published in 1968. I was born in 1968 and in her honour I ensure that I, at least, taste any cake, tart or treat offered to me. Well that’s my excuse this week.
Yes, I’m meant to be writing an arty r
eview about Margaret Fulton: Queen of the Dessert, a musical in St Kilda, but I’m reading recipes from her first famous book and want to make some almond cheese rounds or go to St Kilda for cake.
The Margaret Fulton Cookbook taught the last of the Baby Boomers how to cook; it was like Masterchef, but on paper and without cravats or gastronomy. There wasn’t a copy of Margaret’s book in my house when I grew up, so I thought garlic and olives were woggy and weird, that a tin of corn in a tuna mornay was a vegetable and a squeeze of lemon on fish and chips was fruit. Cookbooks taught me how to cook (Charmaine Solomon was my Margaret) and it’s easy to forget the impact a good cook book has. If you can’t cook, how do you show your family and friends that you don’t hate them?
The show? It’s my favourite musical of the year. It’s as perfectly delicious as the Chocolate Kooglehoupf at Monarch Cakes in Acland Street, as fresh as new season plum from the St Kilda Farmers Market and reminds us that the secret ingredient of success is a often person who’s nothing like the faux fame of their brand.
Based on Fulton’s autobiography, I sang for my supper, writer Doug McLeod, composer Yuri Worontschak and directors Bryce Ives and Nathan Gilkes have been developing this musical for a few years. In this time they’ve crafted a story that embraces a fascinating woman who has as many flaws as the rest of us, filled it with nostalgia, told it with love, placed it firmly in the cultural context of now and told it through the emotion capturing magic of music.
It opens in 1988; it was the cheesy year of Australia’s Bicentenary, but it wasn’t the best time for Margaret. The man she loved had died, the bank was at the door because she trusted the wrong person and she’d been made a bloody Living National Treasure. With her mum and a best friend to talk to, the story heads back to the 40s when teenage Margaret danced with a soldier and moved to Sydney to earn her own living during the war, and shows her career and personal life from Maragret’s eyes.
Amy Lehpamer is Margaret and she’d better be resigned to playing this woman for a long time. Amy looks nothing like Margaret, but captures her determined soul with a dry wit that refuses to see the past through rose coloured glasses, but knows that an extra layer of cream or passionfruit can make up for inevitable mistakes.
She’s joined by the equally scrumptious Josh Price, Laura Burzacott, Zoy Fangos and Zoe McDonald, and a band and back up singers who are allowed to fantastic.
Margret and her family were at opening night and have been back. This says more than any review. Think of your favourite photos. They’re certainly not the ones that make us look hideous, but neither are they the ones photoshopped to perfection. We love reflections that are honest but show us at our best; this is how Margaret Fulton: Queen of the Dessert shows Margaret.
It’s celebratory, heart warming and promises to leave you grinning, crying and wanting Pavlova. It’s selling out every night, but don’t let that stop you seeing if there’s tickets left. It’s too good to not be back, but there’s something special about seeing a first run of a show that’s going to become something amazing.