Inau­gu­ral Solo Fes­ti­val makes an im­pact

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS -

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.

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