Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Hazel Curtis: Fear Doctor***

Hazel Curtis: Fear Doctor
by Petra Kalive and Melissa Bubnic
Where and When: Mark St. Hall, Nth Fitzroy until March 14
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Hazel Curtis (Petra Kalive) strikes terror into the hearts of every audience member – and that’s scary when she’s a “fear doctor”. Hazel is a super parody of one of those appallingly over-confident, 70s, self-help gurus who invite you to a seminar, behave as if they are changing your life and making it more fulfilling, when they are really only filling their own pockets.

Hazel is built like a puffy sofa and wears leopard print leggings and sparkly tops that cling a little too closely to her voluminous curves. She grins like a Cheshire cat and is relentlessly cheerful – until somebody crosses her or touches her inner, wounded self. She is outrageous and funny, but she’s scary too. Her seminar on overcoming your fears is too close to the truth about those smarmy facilitators who preach change.

No one is safe in this audience. Hazel talks directly to each and every one of us. She assails us, regales us with her stories, wheedles secrets out of us, drags reluctant participants up on stage to force them to perform her three H’s, “Hear your fear; help your fear; hiss your fear.” She is the consummate bully who ridicules people into believing they need her help and pursues them until they take out a restraining order.

We chant along with her idiotic sayings, “The rage inside you burns”, or, as she calls it, RIYB. Her sidekick and technician, Jimmy, handles the cheesy muzac and the excruciatingly simplistic PowerPoint diagrams and photos. “See a door, open it and walk through,” she urges us. “Unlock the back door to your happiness.” Do you recognise the shiny glint of a fake?

But under the surface of this narcissistic, social-working nazi, is a tragic, lonely heart who masks her own pain with superficial chanting and catchphrases. Hazel struggles with some bad news that almost derails her entire seminar. What could be just a clever and funny caricature ,straddles the boundary between humour and poignancy, truth and parody.

Hazel’s bull-headedness is counterpointed by Jimmy’s inadequacy and simple, unrequited love. She demeans him and he bounces back like a puppy. Jason Geary directs the show with a lively hand, ensuring that the jokes and the confrontations keep coming.

By Kate Herbert

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