Wednesday 12 April 2023

GRIM: Theatre Review

WHAT: Grim
WHEN: 10 - 22 April 2023
WHERE: The Motley Bauhaus
WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY: Ellen Grimshaw
DIRECTED BY: Kimberley Twiner
AV BY: Chris Hocking and Matt Osborne 
LIGHTING & SOUND BY: Kelli-Anne Kimber
Ellen Grimshaw - photo supplied

After watching Grim at The Motley Bauhaus I realise a new theatrical genre needs to be created. I am calling it astrobouffesque. 

Ellen Grimshaw loves to use the conceit of alienation to help us look at the absurdity of humanity through humour, rapier sharp wit, and poignant satire. I first experienced Grimshaw's energetic explosions of observation at the 2019 Melbourne Fringe in Just Us Girls. Grimshaw brings all of those fireworks but perhaps hits the target with more impact in 2023.

Grim is the story of an alien who has been kicked out of their spaceship and hurtled right into the offices of a casting agency. Whilst being completely bewildered, the agency mistakes them for an actor and starts auditioning them for a range of commercials. What ensues is a hilarious montage of audition experiences that can only be drawn from real life absurdities. In the process Grim tries to learn the language and, even more unlikely, tries to figure out what people want from them.

Eventually Grim escapes and contacts their mum, who happens to be happily imbibing in a lot of alcohol in LA. Grim wants to be rescued and mum is coming as per a pre-arranged rendezvous but in the meantime her best advice for Grim is to be likeable. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to be liked in this world? Especially if you are female? Grim is here to show us and it is not always just sweetness and smiles!

Through physical bouffonry - well facilitated by the skilful direction of Kimberley Twiner - and the help of projected translation text, Grim maneuvers their way through social media, job search, and the audience. The chaos clowning favoured by dramaturg Vidya Rajan can also be seen in Grimshaw's performance. If you have a phobia about audience interaction this is not the show for you!

Liked, likable, loved - Grim will do anything to be just that. The hilarity and the tragedy of Grim is where and how far this takes them. Grim's journey is interrupted by our TV fave Guy Pearce (voice over) as he works his own 'normal' jobs to earn money between gigs and moans about CGI taking work from actors. 

Speaking of animation, a big shout out to Chris Hocking and Matt Osborne. The video contents is dynamic and highly interactive. Kellie-Anne Kimber's understanding of colour theory in the lighting is masterful. Tim Rutty's costume design is effective too. To be honest, everything about the show is great. My one concern is I think it is perhaps 5-10 minutes too long. It starts to get a bit too random for my taste at one point in the show, I admit.

The ultimate question Grim asks is how far do we have to go to be liked by the world, our friends, our family? I remember doing dance and calisthenics as a girl and the great emphasis and constant remonstrances about remembering to smile as my body contorted into painful shapes and moved to beats way too fast for my slow twitch muscles to follow. Grim is all about how 'nice' girls have to be and later, in a world dominated by cameras, how much of ourselves we have to give over in order to be taken into the fold. The fold of friends, the fold of employers, the fold of family. 

I suspect the story of Grim's mum comes from something very real. The catchphrase of the 21st century is "find your people" but what if the ones you think are your people suddenly kick you out? If your old people don't want you, how do you find new people? Grim doesn't have answers - or maybe not the ones you want. On the other hand, Grim is real and sharp and hilarious. 

3.5 Stars

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