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  • Kate Gaul

Sydney Fringe 2022

Six Women Standing in Front of a White Wall

Little Dove Theatre - Sydney Fringe 2022

Director Chenoeh Miller writes that Little Dove’s butoh-influenced performative installation “is an investigation into the possibility that it’s not necessarily a kind of love we crave but more the physiological need for human touch to survive.” Hailing from ACT it is an absolute privilege to see this work in Sydney. Great work can transform even the humblest of venues and the notoriously difficult Sound Lounge becomes the site for a small but beautifully formed work.

Six female identifying humans make their way from the dressing room to the stage slowly, in unison, heads bowed. They are dressed identically in pink tutus and singlets, hair messed up and white smudged faces. Feet bare. Before they reach the stage, Chenoah Miller places a sign in front of the stage. It reads “Please Do touch”. A provocation, a plea, or a warning?

The work has its origins in art-gallery performance. It is both vulnerable and fierce. The piece is a meld of Japanese Butoh, physical theatre and a looser performance art. It has, rightly, received accolades wherever it has performed. The women, in crisis, face us. Time passes. The women silently become husk-like, primal. The event reminds us of humanities destruction in a world without touch, connection, and engagement.

Finally, the more woke audience members comply with the signage. The women on stage are transformed by the touch – posture and gesture change, bodies soften, faces beam.

At just over 30 minutes this is the perfect length. At the fringe all art is equal. But Six Women Standing in Front of a White Wall reminds us that some art is more equal than others. It takes huge commitment to bring a company of 7+ artists to an uncertain fringe. Thanks to Little Dove Theatre for making the journey. Recommended.

Split Lip

Gendermess - Sydney Fringe 2022

A regular on the Perth scene, Ginava is now in Sydney. And not a moment too soon. Split Lip is incredible, and I’ll say straight up that the marketing does not do this show justice. This is drag and lip synch but there’s not a song played.

The work defies category. Go Go GO!

Split Lip follows multiple personalities through their struggles within a psychiatric institution. Ginava flawlessly lip syncs to a series of pop culture voice overs. Her face, gestures and movements are beyond brilliant. This is a work that is meticulously created and presented. A focussed simple setting of desk, chair, and side trolley in which there is a collection of wigs – and yes, they are all worn. Ginava scribbles in a book. She is dressed in a version of a hospital gown. Her white-face makeup is haunting with its red lips and dark eyes. The rapid lighting changes and brilliant mashing together of sound bites from movies, television, and other media, through which Ginava cuts manically, are cut way above the usual fringe fair. The movement, pacing and precision are exceptional. It’s exciting to see what is possible in this format: that fringe can be incisive, polished, intelligent.

Several personalities are on display. The changes of wig – when used – are pure class. The audience is held, capitated, on the edge of seats waiting to see what’s next.

A light google tells me that Ginava is mother to a Perth collective of subversive artists who revel in challenging thinking with their brand of club kid art, Gendermess. This is a form of rebellious performance art. It all began in back-alley clubs and has a huge influence on RuPaul’s Drag Race. RuPaul herself began as a club kid. It is so much more than drag yet is often included under that umbrella. They are often the most maligned of performance artists, who claw their way up to be respected. Apparently, Ginava usually works with oversized costumes that go beyond drag into the realm of art and design.

Split Lip is an altogether more personal affair. The work explores acceptance, moving past adversity and is ultimately life affirming. It’s kind of obvious that after 40+ minutes of lip synching we will hear her real voice. When it comes, the monologue is vulnerable, moving, jolting. One of the best shows of this year. Do not miss it!

Anna Piper Scott: Such an Inspiration

Sydney Fringe - 2022

Celebrated Anna Piper Scott - comedian, trans woman, and voice of a generation – is an inspiration. With a slew of awards, she arrives at Sydney Fringe. As a trans woman whose made it in the cutthroat world of comedy she IS an inspiration. It’s exhausting having to keep giving to the inspiration porn industry which doesn’t allow artists to be artists. We all love a survivor! The title is a joke, of course. This is a show about being trans, mental health, recovering from trauma and Anna’s love/hate relationship with comedy.

Anna tells her story – complete with “Nanette moment”. No spoilers – it’s her story to tell. But this is a savvy, slick and somewhat dark 50+ minute comedy show. Some of it is tough. Anna takes us by the hand and leads us through her world of pronoun abuse, being cast as villain or victim and the mountain of transphobic abuse the world has to offer. It’s a warts-and-all personal journey but far beyond weepy confessional. There are funny flat mates and plenty of job search material to keep the show buoyant.

Anna playfully encourages us to get down with gender issues, don’t avoid the tricky stuff. Anna is a consummate professional and knows how to land her blows. This is a beautifully crafted show. Anna is a charming, luminous (and sometimes biting) presence. She may not see herself as inspirational, but Anna is one fierce queen here to dismantle myths about trans gender folk and make us laugh. One of the top shows of the Fringe. Highly recommended.

Kate Gaul


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