Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Thursday, 10 October 2013
In Spite Of Myself, Oct 10, 2013 ****
By Nicola Gunn Melbourne Festival of Arts Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:****
also published in Herald Sun online on Fri Oct 11andin print later.KH
Nicola Gunn, Pic by Sarah Walker
I’m always a little bit
excited before a Nicola Gunn performance because she invariably surprises and
If you think artists are
self-indulgent idiots justifying incomprehensible work with impenetrable
psycho-babble you’ll love In Spite of Myself, in which Gunn satirises
performance art in irreverent, funny, eccentric and unexpected ways.
With her brazen parody,
Gunn takes the mickey out of art, ironically making the inaccessible more
accessible – and funny.
After giggling at her
living sculpture installation in the foyer, we enter the theatre where Gunn
launches into her acerbic satire, “Exercises in Hopelessness – Nicola Gunn
(1979 to present)”, a fictional retrospective about fictional art work created
by her fictional self.
Dressed with absurdly
elegant formality and wearing a silver-grey wig at a perilous angle, Gunn
introduces the exhibition/lecture as Susan Becker, the absurd epitome of
gallery curator/bureaucrat who doesn’t quite understand her subject.
Gunn plays with
theatrical form and style, teasing the audience with parodies of academic,
artistic and philosophical works, addressing us in both first and third person,
frequently shifting persona from Ms. Becker wither her affected accent, to
Nicola Gunn, the (fictional) dotty artist.
Her comic timing is
impeccable, her writing is bizarre and unpredictable, her content often
challenging and her parody of performance art ingenious.
The lecture is
accompanied by some inspired video footage depicting Gunn performing ridiculous
acts in Arts Centre foyers (my favourite is frottage against the red carpets),
dancing with celery in the courtyards, or confusing patrons in elevators in
scenes that look like hidden camera TV shows.
She talks about her
(fictional) work, Disappointment Mountain that involves work that inevitably
disappoint, and about Body Blanket in which an artist lies on top of a gallery
patron and about Foucault’s philosophical Heterotopia (other places).
Three actors (Maureen
Hartley, Brenda Palmer, Annabel Warmington) or “old women” as Gunn wickedly
calls them, sit up-stage, silently moulding tiny figurines from plasticine
while Gunn detonates another round of philosophical ammunition from amongst the
The show is riddled with
non sequiturs, snatches of contemporary dance or Irish jigs, an earnest diva
singing 60s pop in Italian, and a bit of audience participation with handouts
and requests for questions.
Susan Becker’s formal
lecture finally degenerates into delightfully organised chaos and leaves one
laughing – and thinking.