Today’s guest reviews of three fringe shows come courtesy of Tony Barnes. Thanks Tony!

The Fringe Wives Club – Glittery Clittery

A year ago, while touring several of her shows at the 2018 NZ Fringe Festival, Tessa Waters mentioned that she had another show in development that she would bring to the 2019 Fringe. Fringe Wives Club Glittery Clittery is the show that Waters was referring to and since making those comments Glittery Clittery has won Spirit of the Fringe at Edinburgh 2018 and Best Cabaret, Adelaide Fringe 2018. Currently running until Saturday in the late night slot at Bats, it is a cabaret show that delivers lively songs, eye catching costumes and disco dance moves that are both comedic and fun. Glittery Clittery celebrates all things clitoral. Fittingly it provides an all-encompassing sensory experience that teases out a history of ignorance, misunderstanding and suppression that formed around the clitoris. Leading us out of the quite recent dark ages Glittery Clittery promotes body positivity, knowledge and candidness. But the desire to educate remains secondary to Glittery Clittery’s greater purpose, presenting cabaret as the very best vehicle to provide meaningful entertainment.

The shows ability to deliver on its intent hinges on the talents of co-writers/performers Victoria Falconer, Rowena Hutson and the aforementioned Tessa Waters. Personality is to the fore, the performers exude charisma, self confidence and the camaraderie gained from many months on the road. As much can be seen in the rambunctious ad-libbing that weaves throughout the show and the song lyrics that are made up on the spot by Falconer in response to audience suggestions.

Glittery Clittery is a show that dismantles barriers between performers and the audience. It’s an exceptionally well crafted, finely honed and road tested package and it’s not hard to see why it’s successfully travelled the world. It’s arguably one of the most thought provoking shows at the festival and inarguably one of the most entertaining.

Fringe Wives Club Glittery Clittery on at Bats Theatre to 23 March 2019.

Dry & Damaged

During the opening show of Dry & Damaged at Ivy Bar, comedian Clara Van Wel’s informs us that this is her first ever full length stand up comedy gig. It offers the audience the opportunity to see a show being developed as it occurs. Though billed as running for 50 minutes Van Wel’s wealth of material means that the show on opening night ran for an extra 30 minutes. It certainly offered value for what was already a Koha show. During that time Van Wel covered a range of topics including mental health, relationships, family, sexuality and much more. The delivery was often rapid fire and tangential. Van Wel seems fascinated with coming at topics from fresh perspectives and challenging the audiences ability to make associations in order to get the joke. Van Wel rejects a dumbed down take on world and tries to take the audience with her. It’s not a journey for everybody at this stage in its development.

It’s rare to see a show in such a nascent form. It takes considerable courage from the performer to test the waters in this way and a certain amount of forbearance by the audience. Whether Van Wel decides to trim and hone Dry & Damaged or continue to try out her full repertoire remains to be discovered by future audiences. While the newness of the material makes for a slightly uneven show Van Wel already brings to the stage a unique persona that provides an excellent platform for delivering a distinctive and memorable hour of comedic insights. It’s a show for the curious adventurer.

Dry and Damaged on at Ivy Bary to 23rd March as part of the NZ Fringe Festival

Missing Lids

Missing Lids by Discotheque starts with five yellow costumes on stage, the lights go out, the dancers appear in matching outfits, the lights go out again and the yellow bodysuits are donned. A voiceover advises the audience that they are at a contemporary dance performance and not to be alarmed, just in case they’d wandered into the venue by mistake. The sardonic advising signals that this will be a sly and subversive show that’s going to challenge and provoke. Further voiceovers indicate that the show could be about performed femininity, the marketing of beauty, gender roles and social conformity.

The choreography of Holly Newsome creates dance moves that are alternately robotic, frenzied, self consciously posed and performed with a touch of fury. It’s breathtaking in its pacing and intense, suggesting the psychic strain that is imposed on all of us at this time and place. There is also a playfulness to the show’s presentation. It uses humour and satire to expose the absurdity of modern expectations about behaviour and presentation. Missing Lids embodies a substantial critical viewpoint that drives what is a coherent and convincing narrative. Its conclusions are open to a range of audience interpretations, leaving us richer than when we first entered the performance space.

While the dancers (Bree Timms, Issy Estrella, Olivia Foley, Neve Pierce and Tiana Lung) are required to operate as an un-individuated collective during a few of the synchronised sequences during the first half of this work, the ensemble’s execution is sharp and precise. The unrelenting pace is maintained and places considerable demand on the dancer’s technique and stamina. The dancer’s skill and physical control are convincingly demonstrated. As the show progresses the dancers break out the cloistering body suits masking their faces and become individualised. It’s telling that it requires a group effort to free the first dancer and one of many powerful moments scattered throughout the work.

As a show Missing Lids delivers lots of ideas while providing a dynamic and visceral experience for the audience. Recommended.

Missing Lids is on at Te Auaha to 23rd March as part of the NZ Fringe Festival