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.
Friday, 9 October 2015
Bronx Gothic, 8 Oct 2015, Melbourne Festival ****1/2
Written & performed by Okwui
Okpokwasili Produced by Melbourne Festival, Arts House & Performance Space
House, 8 to 12 October 2015 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ****1/2
Full review also published in Herald Sun online on Fri 9 Oct, 2015 and on Sun 11 Oct in print. KH
Okwui Okpokwasili; pic by Sarah Walker
Okwui Okpokwasili’s startling, solo performance in
Bronx Gothic is visceral and punishing for both performer and audience.
For the first, gob-smacking twenty minutes, her lean,
brown, loose-limbed and muscular body convulses and vibrates in incessant, sweat-drenched,
almost paralytic movement.
The introduction of a dissonant, percussive
soundscape provides no relief, instead heightening the sense of chaos, danger
the pounding sound and pulsating movement suddenly stop, Okpokwasili continues
to mesmerise the audience with her grim tale about the sexual awakening of two
11-year old girls in the Bronx many years ago.
there is still no respite as Okpokwasili weaves her bleak, tormented yarn with
vivid, provocative, sexual imagery and emotive, lyrical language.
collide with reality, childhood rear-ends adulthood, immature sexuality chases
down love and eats out its heart.
throbbing body captures the girls’ burgeoning sexuality and the pain of growing
while evoking a palpable sense of the threatening environment in which these
little girls survive but cannot thrive.
embodies these two girls vocally and physically, using a deep growling tone to
conjure the frighteningly precocious, rebellious, sexually active girl and a
sweet, piping voice as the immature, inquisitive child.
Okpokwasili interrupts her story with short, sweetly sung, unaccompanied songs with
sadly poetic lyrics that comment like a Greek chorus on the pain and suffering.
the adult narrator, she drags memories from her childhood that are triggered by
her reading of carefully preserved notes that were passed between the two girls.
girls dream about violent, bloody and hellish landscapes filled with boiling,
red seas, whereas their inconsequential, daily lives recall sneaky cigarettes
at the local bodega, stolen kisses, early sexual experiences and jealous
director, Peter Born, Okpokwasili lovingly creates a tortured but beautifully
wrought, emotional and physical landscape that acts as a metaphor for
pubescence and the intimate life of children on the verge of discovery.
Witnessing Okpokwasili’s torturous physicality and intense
storytelling is both alarming and inspiring.