Experienced by Ellen Waddell at The Parlour Showrooms 21-23rd November 2013
Ausform was a three day micro fest utilising space in The Cube and The Parlour Showrooms. The festival showcased new pieces of performance and works in progress, hosted talks and tried to encourage the idea of a ‘conversation’ between performance and viewer. Between shows there was a pop up café at The Parlour showrooms where visitors were invited to engage with Velcro suits and take part in a music video. I am more of a looker then a participator, so on the opening night watched and drank reasonable priced gin and tonics as people donned Velcro vests and constructed their bodies out of foam triangles and cubes. My part of the ‘conversation’ was to wait for the other person to talk.
The performances started with a whimper as performer ‘Tender Buttons’ took to the stage with ‘Sound and Guts.’ A letter had been sent to the performer in error and her exploration of the imagined loneliness of the sender, she encounters dead bodies whilst swimming and doesn’t tell anyone, felt definitively like a ‘work in progress.’ It hung together loosely and Tender Buttons lacked the necessary je ne sais quoi to make the piece resonate with the audience. But if this is still a conversation then Tender Buttons needed to hear a response as whilst there were interesting aspects to what she was saying, I needed to hear it more passionately. The second performance, BLOW by Holly Bodmer, was a far more charismatic exploration of failure, using a horribly embarrassing real life recording of a failed music exam as its catalyst. Although a painful listen, Holly used this low point to explore the idea of ‘blowing it’ from orchestral failings to everyday mistakes. The audience was invited to try out some of the different pieces of brass she had bought with her, which distracted at times from the natural and often touching monologues delivered by Holly, but in terms of a conversation she got us all thinking back to our youth and shattered illusions of being concert pianists or bassoonists.
The final act was Fox Solo by Foxy and Husk, an exploration of love and the often-crippling destruction of our romantic illusions. Foxy is a fox/woman hybrid, who uses a mixture of lip-syncing, cabaret, video and performance art, and Husky is her wobbly headed toy dog. Despite the absurdity of watching Foxy directing karaoke odes of Sonny and Cher’s ‘I’ve Got You Babe’ to the dog with a wobbling head, it was horrifically touching. Foxy grounded her performance with real life tapes of her grandmother talking about her granddad, which she lip-synced so perfectly and with such conviction that I was THIS close to shedding a tear. My part in the conversation would be to say ‘I am in awe of you.’
The closing night of performances took place at The Parlourshow Room’s, and immigration is in the Venn diagram for the two pieces on show. Matilda and Me by Ria Hartley explored the idea of dual heritage through dub poetry, storytelling and dancing to old reggae with her daddy’s dreadlocks tied to her hair. Ria spoke from the heart about her dual Jamaican and British heritage and what it meant to her, the story was birthed when her grandmother Matilda got dementia, and she did not shy away from addressing some uncomfortable truths about societies attitude towards race.
In ‘Dance Play,’ Ana Mendes was Basha Posh a refugee from Afghanistan in
who repeatedly called herself ‘a girl who use to be a boy’ (parents would sometimes dress girls as boys so they could avoid rape and get work) as she walked, marched and ran around the space to illustrate her tumultuous journey to Germany. She used simplistic but effective language, childlike to match the narrator’s starting age of 14, her only prop being a prized pair of Nike shoes. In the Q & A the conversation continued, and it remained strong and persistent as both plays invoked various questions and debate amongst the audience. Ultimately Ausform provided good conversation, although there was trepidation to begin with and it took a while to find it’s flow, ultimately it had a lot to say and a lot to teach you.
(I hate to draw attention to something which Ausform has not drawn attention to, which I think is highly commendable, not that it should be mind, but because it is the way it should be, and I am hesitant to mention it other than congratulating Ausform for not mentioning it, but all the performances I saw were by women and the festival wasn’t titled ‘the women’s festival’ or something ridiculous.)