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Monday 11 November 2013

‘SPOIL YOUR LOVE LIFE’ dissected by me

I saw Michelle Pastor perform her show, ‘Spoil Your Love Life’ on Saturday night at The Newsagency, Marrickville. It’s a tiny converted space opposite Enmore Park that allows a very small audience to fill a room. It's also aided by the kindergarten-size chairs for the audience and the narrow performing space.

Pastor has experimented with this show over the last few years. It had one incarnation at the Tamarama Rocksurfers Homebrew in 2011 and did a tour of the Adelaide Fringe in 2013. Essentially the show can be summarised as a married woman locking herself in the bathroom to escape the kids and the monotony of her marriage so she can fantasise about being swept off her feet by Hugh Jackman. Of course most of those scenarios then seem to involve a series of failed attempts to find happiness with him and with Pastor’s character falling down in the street, humiliated. For me, the idea of a fantasy seems to involve a happy ending, in every sense. What a pity that her fantasies seem to involve failure and rejection.

It’s quite a polished show and does have some nice moments. It pumps out a few show tunes, there’s some interaction with the musician and there’s an opportunity to dress her up in an audience-devised toilet paper dress and cotton wool confetti. The problem isn’t the skill of the performer, it is the tired old material.

The show raised a question that concerns me and it may seem strange after my most recent review on the feminist piece playing at the Ensemble, but why do so many women devise material around the pursuit of a man, marriage and subsequent lack of fulfilment? Is this our narrative? Is this our sole purpose in life? How many men engage in parallel stories? I can’t think of many solo-male shows that are primarily about finding the perfect girl, unless it’s tongue-in-cheek to highlight a hypocrisy and hyper-sexualised perception of the opposite sex and how unrealistic they are in finding what they’re looking for. Men seem to have stories about surviving addiction, beating the system, jumping obstacles, or about identity, growing up, avoiding growing up, etc but it is generally not about women. Women are not the focus of their narratives. No more will I sit in the audience, watching women do shows about men and their desperate need to find some sort of elusive happiness by securing the romantic notion of fulfilment through love.

Speak to a man and you’ll be lucky if he even tells you he’s got a family. To him it just doesn’t seem relevant. It's incidental and not a note-worthy achievement. I once did this series of intense personal acting classes with this guy where we spoke about the death of our parents, our deepest fears and hopes, etc and it was ages before it was revealed he was married with kids and only when a mutual friend told me. How does that not come up in conversation, I thought?  For men, marriage seems part of a story but it does not define them. Why can’t women embrace the same?

I’m generalising but the point is this: if women make men the focus of their stories in expressing that our ultimate quest or focus should be in securing a man, that’s sad. In the case of this show, if the focus is that even he can’t make you happy and clearly we can’t find happiness within ourselves, that’s worse. What frustrates me is this is the story we constantly tell. Where are the narratives about women overcoming adversity, about our successes, failures, achievements, impressions, etc that don’t involve trying to get married or make a man the focus of it? And by implication, what are we saying to our girls about what it means to be our sex and what power are we endowing to men if we are always telling them that they are the key to our happiness?

I do not want to sit through another one-woman show about singledom, marriage and misery. Instead let me see your show about your quest to be the first star ship captain, your pathetic record of ski injuries, fighting the local government development plan- anything but looking for love in all the wrong places.

To finish, ‘Spoil Your Love Life’ was perfectly adequate but maybe you can find or devise material that excites you and your audience and fills the house. After three years, if this material hasn’t done that for you yet, let it go. 

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