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Wednesday, 1 October 2014


Spring is a happening and so is the wonder that is the Sydney Fringe Festival. So I bounced on down to PACT to catch a double bill of The Cutting Room Floor's- 'All the Single Lad(ie)s' and Coleman Grehan's 'Him'.

I really love the courtyard at PACT. The atmosphere is chilled and welcoming. They serve wine in plastic picnic cups. I like this. No pretensions here.
So when the theatre opened almost half an hour later than it was meant to, I barely noticed the time as I moseyed on into All the Single Lad(ies).

All the Single Lad(ie)s

I take my seat in the almost completely packed theatre. White Ikea furniture frames the stage. A rack of dresses in various shades of white hangs from the ceiling. We are greeted by a drag queen who would become our MC and inner voice for the 50 minute duration. Although her red dress a little too tight and heels a little too high, she assures us she knows what she is doing and for a minute I believe her. Then she starts with the anti-feminist rhetoric. I am immediately defensive. Although she does make the point of targeting “radical feminists” I have to admit, I don't think the women's rights movement has come far enough that we should be worrying that the balance has tipped the other way. If the day does come that men's rights are frequently abused, I will sash-up and Mister Suffragette for the cause. But that time is not now. I fold my arms across my chest and wonder how far this will go. Thankfully it's not long, the MC does a Beyonce number and leaves the stage.

We are then catapulted into the world of a small boutique shop and the lone shop attendant getting a little too into the shops soundtrack. To briefly recap the narrative; a man uses a gun to hold up the shop attendant only to have the gun turned on him. He is consequently tied up by the attendant, and after one bout of consensual sex, he is trapped in the store and used as her plaything, long after he was willing to consent.

I don't think this piece is intentionally anti-feminist. It possibly would have had more impact if it had attempted to tell the story outside the context of gender, instead of just reversing the genders, a gimmick that is used far too often.

Periodically our MC returns to perform more drag, which is fun, but her insights into gender theory were mostly confused and often miss the mark. The performance uses very little subtlety with its themes of consent, power and gender roles.

However Scott Corbet's direction was superb, the use of split focus during the rape scenes made something that is essential unwatchable, less painful. The performances where all solid, especially Verity Softly's performance as the shopkeeper. There is something about her that is just so watchable. She has an incredible emotional depth for someone so young.

So I guess “All the Single Lad(ie)s just felt a little confused. I feel like it had good intentions, but possibly would benefit from some more thorough research in gender theory. It's a shame because I think perhaps it could have been more than just a vehicle for soapboxing an idea that perhaps doesn't really deserve a platform.

So I walked back into PACT's courtyard, feeling confused and a little disappointed, eagerly checking out the program for the next show.


So as a rule I am not a huge fan of performance art. I've got this bee in my bonnet about things that I consider are potential 'wankery'. Maybe it is a throw back to my rural upbringing. Although I am a huge fan of experimental film makers such as Matthew Barney and Jan Svankmajer, so maybe my line of what is wankery and non-wankery is a little ambiguous. I think I can narrow my definition of wankery down to this: if I feel the form is obscuring the meaning, due to self indulgence, I chuck it in the wankery basket. You can be as self indulgent as you like, as long as you aren't pitching it as entertainment and asking me to pay to see it.

Reading the program I begin to worry that Him, was going to be largely a piece of wankery. Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised. 'Him' uses the Japanese form of dance theatre, Butoh, as a medium to tell the story of a past relationship and it's collapse. For the uninitiated (as I was) Butoh is traditionally performed with an artist, or artists, fully painted white, using hyper-slow movements to tell a story.

I've never seen any Butoh before so I can't comment on whether he nailed it or not. I can say that I enjoyed it. Coleman combined his spit with pigment and painted his body to demonstrate the emotional stages of a previous relationship. It felt deeply personal and I felt connected to Coleman Grehan during the whole performance. Grehan's performance can only be described as beautiful. The sound design (also created by Grehan) complimented the performance perfectly.

I left this performance feeling refreshed. It was short, about 30 mins in total, which was perfect for my Gen Y attention span.

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