Thursday 12 October 2023

FLUSH: Theatre Review

WHAT: Flush
WHEN: 10 - 14 October 2023
WHERE: Queen Victoria Women's Centre (top floor)
CREATED & PERFORMED BY: Isabella Gilbert
DIRECTED BY: Elizabeth Walley

Elizabeth Gilbert - photo supplied

Tinder shows abound and they generally follow a formula. Flush, on the other hand, goes much deeper, connecting climate change and 400 years of literary history with intensely minute detail of Tinder hook ups nobody wants, but all of us can relate to. Flush is being presented at the Queen Victoria Women's Centre as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

The top floor of the QWVC is a small space, but a full glass wall with double doors opens onto an open roof space. Isabella Gilbert (performer) uses this adjunct cleverly, providing her with a space to play and extend and expand in the dance segments of the show, which is in effective counterpoint to the intimacy of her connection to the audience for the spoken sections. 

The show opens with Gilbert in a dance sequence in silhouette. The doors are closed and we are disconnected which creates a curious, voyeuristic intrigue. The choreography is opaque at the start of the show, but it slowly reveals itself as the show progresses and we get peaks into who Gilbert is and was.

The intimacy of the space is perfect for the spoken sections of the show. When inside the room, Gilbert tells us stories of an array of horror/comedy Tinder hook up experiences. Her writing is hyper-naturalistic and the minutia of that style is perfect for such a small space. Gilbert constantly refers to dripping and intersperses her recollections with references to David Attenborough's Frozen Planet TV series. Suddenly the white dance floor covering the carpet starts making sense.

Sometimes, after a particularly icky date/hook up, you feel very dirty and channelling Lady McBeth is a very natural progression. This is not the last we will hear of the bard. Despite reciting a common misconception about Shakespeare 'inventing' new words, the story becomes an apt and witty vehicle to demonstrate the absurdity of the male ego and has the audience in gales of laughter. 

Elizabeth Walley (director) has helped Gilbert navigate the space well, and some of the imagery created by Gilbert with one prop towards the end is almost breath-taking and outrageously funny all at the same time. I didn't really like the costume but it is probably just a matter of taste. The music is loud and insistent and it's energy drives the subtext of frustration. Frustration about men, frustration about climate change, frustration about the limitations of our human body.

Flush is a comic dating show with a difference. With Flush Gilbert doesn't just bring honesty. She brings heart and horror and hope. Hope for something better. Hope for something different. Hope for a future and a world to live that future in. 

Flush is text book post-dramatic theatre. It juxtaposes minutia with grand ideas. The banal and the erudite sit side by side in this very intelligent piece of dance theatre. It was a very happy surprise to see the layers Gilbert has built into Flush.

3.5 Stars

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