Friday 3 February 2017

The Rambling Feminist - Theatre Review

What: The Rambling Feminist
When: 1 - 5 January
Where: The Butterfly Club
Written and Performed by: Shona Anderson

Shona Anderson
A one woman monologue, Shona Anderson tells a montage of travel stories in The Rambling Feminist. The downstairs stage of The Butterfly Club is actually the perfect venue for this tale as the mirrors on the wall act as a metaphor for the reflections Anderson is engaging in as she 'rambles' through her travels across Europe with her boyfriend.

The downstairs stage is what might euphamistically be called intimate and usually I feel it is too small for the work being presented on it, but somehow Anderson has managed to make it feel huge. With a tent covered in green transparent netting and a red star cloth behind the space becomes evocative of openness and possibility.

Anderson has a lot of talent as a writer and her facility with metaphor is inspiring. From the very beginning we hear this as she described being dropped of in Byron Bay as like someone dumping a cat along a highway. It sounds dreadful now, but in the context of the story-telling it was hilarious.

The show begins very strongly. Anderson has developed a calming tone and pace as well as rhythmic body movements which are evocative of meditation. In fact her hands constantly return to the meditative om position which becomes hypnotic to watch.

Complimenting her vocal patterns, her body moves to the same beat. She uses it well and it is evident Anderson is highly cognizant of using space and shapes on stage to help storytelling. 

Her hand and arm movements are intriguing. They are not used in a naturalistic or responsive way. Instead they form patterns and speak with her words much like traditional dances such as the hula and strangely highly reminiscent of Auslan.

Although Anderson is technically rambling, the show does have a linear narrative as she parallels her European travels with the disintegration of her personal relationship.  I am not sure the piece is all that feminist. The ideas seem to be more about freedom although there is a strong commentary on personal dignity and respect.

One of the more fascinating stories is about the Albanian experience under the dictator Enver Hoxha. The context of this story was one in which the breakup of the former Yugoslavia was seen by the people as a fracturing of community and the embedding of differences, not an act resulting in freedom for the people in any way.

Anderson refers to her depression briefly, which explains the meditative frame of the dramaturgy but I think she takes it a bit too far. Her voice soothes, the movements are hypnotic and despite some excellent writing it becomes easy to lose focus. Changes in pace and tempo would help bring attention to the important moments and phrases.

There are a couple of songs in the show and it was exciting to discover Anderson has a beatiful, smokey, folky voice perfectly suited for this hippyesque travel discourse. At the start Anderson says life is like a kaleidoscope, watching ourselves is like looking at germs through a microscope. 

This is how The Rambling Feminist works. Anderson is putting all of these experiences together on the one page to look for meaning and learning. This piece is not didactic. The stories are placed before us and it is up to us to get angry and learn for ourselves.

The Rambling Feminist is an intriguing piece. With a bit of work on the rhythm and pace it should do well.

2.5 Stars

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