Friday, 23 September 2011

At The Sans Hotel, Nicola Gunn, Sep 23, 2011

Review: At The Sans Hotel, La Mama Courthouse ****

In her startling and innovative solo show, At the Sans Hotel, Nicola Gunn shatters theatrical conventions with alacrity and astonishes us with her idiosyncratic blend of humour and pathos. 

Gunn has a remarkable and compelling stage presence, with her open face, wide, child-like eyes and confronting gaze that flickers from joy to pain in a millisecond.

The show falls into two parts. Gunn initially introduces herself as Sophie, an anxious, personable and vulnerable French woman who chatters to us about the fact that Nicola Gunn’s production is cancelled.
Sophie’s harmless, playful and eccentric prattle shifts to confused, fearful flurries of conversation about loneliness, failure, despair and the nature of theatre and punctuated by sudden silences and disquieting stares.

Eventually, the starkly lit stage (Gwen Holmberg-Gilchrist) plunges into hazy darkness with ominous music (Luke Paulding) when the focus shifts to the interrogation of a psychotic, German woman who is lost in the Australian desert, a situation loosely based on Cornelia Rau.

Gunn’s performance challenges and entertains the audience, deconstructs narrative and warps theatrical styles and conventions to create a new form that is both disturbing and magical.

She engages us to the point where we will do anything she asks, even fill out an invisible questionnaire, go on stage to be castigated, follow an incomprehensible argument, wait minutes for her to speak or watch the set being moved (Rebecca Etchell).

And you will never forget those wide, desperate, staring eyes.

By Nicola Gunn
La Mama Courthouse, until October 2, 2011
Star rating: ****

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