Saturday, October 10, 2009
Reviews: Iris; When the Sex is Gone
By Gulsen Ozer and Dani-Ela Kayler
Let me preface this by saying that a lot of people LOVED this show. As in really experienced people, people high up in various creative industries, and people whose opinions I admire. Some people thought it was the best thing in the Fringe this year. But me: I dint dun geddit. It didn’t work for me at all. It can be a really frustrating thing to feel like you’re not seeing the show that has other people raving, but that’s what happened to me.
Iris is a two-hander in which a pair of characters (Abigail and Aberdeen) play out a sort of kid relationship based around the absent (and possibly imaginary) Iris. It’s sort of spoken word and sort of abstract theatre, with a lot of dance accompanying everything. The lighting is simple, the only set item a single white chair. I suppose it’s meant to evoke the fantasy worlds of childhood, in which our relations to each other are often catalysed by invented realities which have very real functions – ‘Iris’ is a way for these two to toy with and explore the dynamics of communication and identity, including power relations, affection, suspicion, one-upping and empathy.
But while others did feel that the piece beautifully captures that rich world of childhood, I got nothing. It felt more like a nostalgic longing for childhood than a deep excavation of that period’s complexity and strangeness. A part of my response is probably informed by the fact that I usually don’t like grown-ups playing kids onstage, at least not in that squeaky, wide-eyed and awkward way. If you watch a real kid for more than a few seconds you’ll notice that they think a lot and have highly-developed interior worlds that are mostly dismissed when adults try to play them. A fine contrast can be found in The Hat Box, where after around half an hour I began to think: “Hang on a bit – are these two characters meant to be children?” I still don’t know the answer to that question, and I think that’s because the two figures at the heart of this show are treated with such respect and developed in such a sophisticated way.
The choreographic element of Iris was also confusing to me – I couldn’t see why these people were dancing the whole time or why the movement choices they made were any more appropriate than any others they could have made. It might have even be improvised movement for all I know.
I won’t go on because, again, I likely missed something here and my response is a minority one. If strongly divided opinions is the marker of a show worth catching (and I think it is), then consider this one of those numbers where you’ll just have to decide for yourself.
Ends tonight, North Melbourne Town Hall.
WHEN THE SEX IS GONE
By Tommy Bradson
It’s pretty difficult to convince me to see cabaret. Here’s why:
- People who think ‘cabaret’ is just an excuse to do covers of their favourite songs
- The ubiquitous, done-to-death stage persona of the old gin-swilling lush with the miserable sex life and the smeared mascara
- The Carry On level of “naughty” innuendo
- The pretty average musical abilities
- The one-note tone to most hour-long performances
Clearly I’m not a big fan of cabaret. I don’t mind people who are, but… not for me.
So I was moaning like a big baby when I was dragged across town last night to see this two-hour long solo show.
AND WHAT A SHOW!
I was uptight and grumpy for the first half-hour at least, but grudgingly began to admit that this guy might kinda have something. I don’t know much about Tommy Bradson (I think he’s from Sydney) but he’s a powerhouse performer – kind of like a Paul Capsis junior. Here he gives us two characters in what could really be two shows – the first a hermaphrodite European who relates her sorry life story of sleaze and savagery, the second an ex-boxer with a very nasty side.
A lot of the old cabaret trappings are here: the smeared make-up, the acidic and even offensive jokes, the weary demeanour of the human trainwreck lying in the gutter and looking at the stars. But Bradson fills his creations with so much energy and so many contradictory personality features that you’re never sure where he’ll go next. He flips from flirty and self-effacing to fierce and fearsome in a second, and frequently jumps around through different accents and characters to flesh out the secondary figures in the worlds his characters inhabit. Plus the music is (at least to my ear) completely original, and very well done. It’s a totally live performance, Bradson snapping up any comments overheard in the crowd and incorporating them into the show instantly.
It’s enough to give hope to even the most regularly disappointed of cabaret non-fans – just ask me.
Ends tonight at Dog’s Bar, St Kilda.