Inaugural Solo Festival makes an impact
Real Fake White Dirt from Theatre Beating Live Orgy by Freya Desmarais Everything Is Surrounded By Water from My Accomplice The Lola Show– The Boom Boom Room Burlesque The Dark Room, September 9 – 12 Reviewed by Richard Mays
Billed as Australasia’s first festival for solo performers, Solo has the potential to become a much bigger annual event the city could claim, home and hone.
Opening with a beautifully pitched karanga from performer Jess Holly Bates, the festival’s first act Real Fake White Dirt juxtaposed powerful performance poetry with wry observations about Pakeha New Zealand.
Insightful about societal contradictions and anomalous expectations, the performance avoided any preachiness as Jess, bare-footed and wearing cut-off shorts and a T, and carrying a jar of dirt, explored the textures of her upbringing. Interrupted from time to time by phone calls on a good old fashioned land-line from her director, the intriguing piece manages the tricky feat of appearing both witty and wise.
The later show, Live Orgy, with its large vulva was another matter altogether. The orgy we attended, performer Freya Desmarais assured us was one of ‘‘fervent ideas’’, as she explored the history of women’s rights in New Zealand in the context of a prevailing rape culture. Part confessional, part sex-ed TED Talk, part improv, the show veered unpredictably from the titivatingly funny to classroom to rap. As Freya aptly summed things up ‘‘there’s nothing that could have prepared you to watch this show’’.
Uther Dean’s Everything Is Surrounded By Water provided a masterclass in storytelling. Seated in an armchair, Uther’s existential tale skillfully negotiates diverse elements – a man who finds he’s only in a relationship because his partner has recreated him as an artwork, selling human souls on Trade Me, and cuttlefish, which become more than a metaphor for the storyteller’s state of mind. Beautifully woven stuff from a performer who announced at the beginning: ‘‘This is a story not a show – all acting is accidental’’.
Welcome back Mr Lola Illusion. The insouciant, saucy androgenous MC with male torso, feather bustle, fishnet and heels sang, conjured and mimed through a cabaret set featuring some of the performer’s greatest hits from The Boom Boom Room burlesques, ensuring the Solo party finished on an entertainment high. Perfect.