Wednesday, 25 August 2010

She’s Not Performing **1/2

She’s Not Performing  
By Alison Mann
La Mama, Aug 25 to Sept 5, 2010
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: **1/2

She’s Not Performing, by Alison Mann, has disturbing content about the emotional pain of a birth mother relinquishing a baby for adoption. However, the problems with the production are not related to content but to script, acting and staging. It all feels a little uncomfortable.

Margarite (Andrea Close) is a dysfunctional 42-year old suffering a profound sense of loss 25 years after giving up her baby girl. She is naïve, aggressive, unable to sustain relationships and tortured by self-loathing. Her feelings of worthlessness are so severe that she self-harms with razor blades. It is distressing and chilling to see her separate herself from the physical pain.

Margarite is not a likable character. It is difficult to sympathise with her crudeness, her brutal behaviour and her irrational pursuit of Annie (Rachel Purchase), a young lap-dancer who Margarite desperately wants to believe is her daughter.

Director, Kelly Somes, begins the show with Annie’s titillating sex club dance, but this initial physicality and visual dynamism disappears quickly. The script deteriorates into rather colourless realism with shallow dislikeable characters and flat, predictable dialogue.

The catwalk stage leaves little room for any on stage action. The actors look cramped and trip over the audience’s feet as they enter and exit. The most interesting part of the staging is the dancer silhouetted behind a full-length, sheer, red, upstage curtain. The aggressive sex scene between Margarite and her casual partner, Iain (Mike McEvoy), is suitably unpleasant and dangerous.

The acting is awkward, particularly from Close who has trouble finding the nuances to make the thin dialogue effective and the woman-child Margarite, credible. We remain strangely unmoved by the play and its emotional topic until perhaps the final confessional and honest moments of Margarite with her baby’s father (Christopher Bunworth).

There is a uncomfortable relationship drawn between women who relinquish babies and dangerous or inappropriately sexualised behaviour. I am sure the writer’s intention is to sympathise with the continuing plight of these women and the pain that they suffer, but the play seems to diminish the issues rather than to illuminate them.

By Kate Herbert

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