By Andrea Bunjamin and Sashka Wickramasinghe
“We compete, and defeat, and repeat.”
This is the churlish chorus that sums up the frenetic rivalry between teenage twins in the up-and-coming musical podcast, Twinemies, by Grace Valerie-Lynette.
Like every great classic rom-com story, it centres on a bet – between two siblings, twins of course – to cross all the dreamy teen-movie moments off of their childhood ‘Bucket List’ before senior year ends, obtaining the ultimate title of the ‘perfect’ twin. The queer teen rom-com was created with the support of Community Broadcasting Foundation and SYN Media, a clear product of the insanity that the pandemic has wrought on creatives worldwide. The short story arc begins during a party taking place the night before the school formal, and continues across four episodes. Listeners will witness encounters that zanily connect the complex relationships between characters in a manner that, in the words of Sister Sybil, the school’s designated cool nun, ‘has of course been a shitshow’.
MUSICAL PODCAST FORMAT
The musical podcast format is a unique one, and a market you might not have even known existed. Musicals are generally associated with big dance numbers, extravagant costumes and dramatic lighting but, in the case of Twinemies, all this is left to the imagination. Immersing in a musical purely through sound gives you the creative freedom to envision your own settings and atmospheres. It may even be easier to identify and relate with characters and their experiences: we have the opportunity to imagine them as reflections of ourselves and the people around us.
The podcast format also allows singing and sound effects to be showcased as the focal point of the musical experience. The clumsy voices in conversations are emphasised, with no other sensory mediums to cloud our perception. Flashbacks and scene transitions are also more effective here, while they can be a more clunky and unnatural experience in live theatre and movies. It may take some time for us to figure out who is who in the beginning, but as their personalities start to manifest, so too do their voices.
THEMES: Heart of the Story – Queer representation and vulnerability
The awkwardness that comes with teenagerhood tends to be ridiculed throughout popular culture. Twinemies however, takes the theme of teen vulnerability seriously. It acknowledges the hardships of growing up as valid issues that teenagers face. It is self-aware of the dangers of downplaying real vulnerabilities or trivialising the teenage experience. But whilst the podcast explores the raw emotions associated with teenagerhood, it simultaneously balances this out with a strong presence of humour and light-heartedness.
This portrayal of teens and their queerness, in its signature light-hearted way, encourages the audience to normalise queer relationships and deviate away from associating them with heartbreak and misfortune.
The greatest homage to Twinemies’ quirky 90’s and modern rom-com influences lies in their ensemble of characters. The podcast presents recognisable high school archetypes we’re familiar with, such as the Type A cheerleader, anti-social genius, star athlete who claims to be a ‘lesbian Tik Tok thirst trap’ and finally, the shy band geek with a crush.
While the classic rom-com movie formula has been laid out, Twinemies subverts our assumptions of the ‘inseparability’ of twins. The dynamic between Chloe and Darcy, and their at times borderline hateful rivalry, stems from their consistent inability to show care for each other.
We the audience witness this as a blessing and a curse. Beneath their exteriors, each character experiences personal struggles with their self-identity, despite their sometimes polar-opposite circumstances. Chloe’s need for polished perfection has caused her to avoid ambiguity; Darcy’s social independence and isolation is borne from her fear of making close friendships.
ALBUM / SONGS CRITIQUE
In Twinemies’ opening number, This Fucking Family, begins with a jovial and jaunty tune. The sequential plucking of light guitar notes is reminiscent of childhood nursery melodies, and is promptly accompanied by swearing, insults, and tormenting lyrics hurled by Darcy’s and Chloe’s dodgy cheery voices.
The lyrics cleverly hint at the longevity of their rivalry and the delirium of arguments tallied in their strained relationship. What makes the tune so endearing is that it sounds like someone took the twins’ screaming matches and fixed them into a melody, as if in a futile attempt at momentary peace.The song would have been made all the more satisfying had details of the protagonists’ previous fights and pranks been brought up more strenuously, widening the chasm between the two. There was a missed opportunity in the lyrics to flesh out the differences between their personalities – the insults thrown at one another in This Fucking Family started sounding too alike. But despite this, the song set a precedent for what listeners can expect from Twinemies’ other songs. Moreover, it tactfully establishes the main mystery we’re all dying to know: why do they hate each other so much in the first place?
Overall, Twinemies is a loveable, nostalgic story that reminds us why the cheesy rom-com has persisted as our favourite guilty-pleasure pastime. If you’re looking for a humourous, cleverly-edited and insightful podcast, Twinemies is the one for you.
The musical podcast is set to be released on 28 February, Monday at 4 p.m. on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, and Audible. Check out their Instagram and TikTok for more.