Saturday 20 October 2018

One And The Other - Circus Review

What: One And The Other
When: 17 - 28 October 2018
Where: La Mama Courthouse
Devised by: Debra Iris Batton and Sue Broadway
Directed by: Clare Bartholomew
Musical direction by: Teresa Blake
Performed by: Debra Iris Batton, Sue Broadway, and Teresa Blake
Designed by: Emily Barrie
Lighting by: Sarah Platts
Debra Iris Batton, Sue Broadway, and Teresa Blake
It feels like circus is everywhere at the moment. 'Sidesault' has taken over the Melba Spiegeltent, Rock Bang is about to explode into the Merlyn and One And The Other has just opened at La Mama Courthouse for two weeks.

What is exciting about this current fever of circus activity is the breadth and spectrum on display. From the newbies at the Speigeltent, to the master craftspersons in the Merlyn, and to the maestro pioneers at La Mama, the entire spectrum of modern circus - origins to outcomes - are filling the stages for audiences to marvel at and admire.

One And The Other is perhaps the icing on the cake as veteran pioneers of the modern circus form, Batton and Broadway, team up once again to remind us all how it is done, what it should look like, and to stamp their claim as the Aunties of the Australian circus world. It's not just circus though. Batton and Broadway are veterans of the second-wave feminist movement too. Inspired by the #metoo movement they have girded their loins to look back on what they did and how they did it as women and circus artists and to pioneer new ground, showing what being an older woman can and does look like in this brave new world...

Let me begin with the really important stuff first. Batton and Broadway are master clowns and from the moment the lights come up the audience were laughing their arses off. "Sorry. Sorry." I meant to say laughing their behinds off. Broadway is the straight man (person?) and Batton is the joker in this comedy duet of the caliber of all the greats - Lewis and Martin, Hope and Crosby, Laurel and Hardy, French and Saunders, etc.

Their hat juggling is as suave as it is hilarious and the afternoon tea routine is classic pie in the face humour of the best sort. What Batton and Broadway understand is the laugh is the thing, not the trick itself. If the trick doesn't land (which is rare indeed) they know how to continue to work the moment until the audience finds the funny side. You can laugh with them or at them. They don't care as long as you laugh and don't stop until they say it is time. They also understand it is not the number of tricks. Rather it is the quality of the set up and delivery which matters most.

Batton is the acrobat who can still do amazing tumbles off a vault and trampoline, backflips, carwheels - all the good stuff. Broadway is a balance artist and a master of legerdemain. She brings back classic prestidigitation such as the floating wand dance as she recounts her family pedigree in the circus arts.

Part of the conceit of One And The Other is a celebration of their achievements - both personal and also in the development of circus in Australia. Broadway was a member of the founding Circus Oz troupe and beyond that went on to AD Strange Fruit, currently working as AD for Westside Circus and being the Chair of the La Mama Committee of Management.

Batton was an award winning gymnast until she turned the ripe old age of 17 and aged out. Batton has a long and extraordinary career in physical theatre and circus including being AD of Legs On The Wall for a decade. One extraordinary skit in the show is when Batton emerges as a balloon of a person and slowly, one by one, strips away decades of gig tees until she reaches current times. I lost count of just how many there were (as well as being amazed she kept them all!).

All of these shenanigans and tomfoolery are accompanied by the sound stylings of Blake. Working with samples, sequences, looping and a bewildering array of live instruments (cymbals, high hats, a harp, a cello, recorders, et al...) Blake is responding to the action on stage and it is fun watching Batton and Broadway working with her throughout.

Blake sits above the action on an incredibly simple, beautiful, and ultimately effective set created by Barrie. Two black flats cover left and right of stage leaving a central entrance and exit arch for Batton and Broadway. The flats are actually workshop shadow boards on which she has affixed all of the props the performers need throughout the show. Their candy coloured vibrancy look like they are floating in the space, waiting to be selected, much like Broadway's wand floated in their pas de deux.

As I mentioned earlier, though, this candyland of magic and mystery has a feminist edge which gets sharpened as the performance continues. It is subtle at first. The 'sorry' sequence after the tea party hinting at how women are required to apologise for everything - even things they are not responsible for or even did not do. It culminates into a bludgeon at the end with the 'fuck you' sequence. Here the laugh stops and all of pain, humiliation, and frustration of living their lives against the grain emerges for all to see. Very unladylike indeed!

In One And The Other Batton and Broadway bare their souls (and their bodies) as they show us where we have been, where we are now, and where we have yet to go. Directed by another of our clowning greats, Bartholomew, One And The Other should not be missed. It also needs to be archived because the work these women are doing cannot be lost to the vagaries of carelessness. This is our living history and we must preserve it. Hugh Jackman are you looking for another film project?

4.5 Stars

1 comment:

  1. Oh Samara - this is so moving and a tribute to all our foremothers and all the women to come. Thank-you.


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