Performances included Not Today & Scattergun After the Death of Ruaumoko
Reviewed by Juliana Payne
Sydney Fringe at Seymour Centre
Tuesday 13 September 2022
Written and performed by Ally Morgan
I remember my 25-year-old niece telling me that the song ‘We Lost Dancing’ summed up the COVID-19 lockdowns for her. It was heartbreaking to think of her and all the young people losing two years of life, love, and fun during those bleak times. All that emotion came flooding back watching Ally Morgan perform her funny, bittersweet one-person show last night. She is a multitalented musician and songwriter with a keen eye and ear for comedy as well as having genuine emotion. She combines the skills and styles of Tim Minchin, Sarah Blasko and Missy Higgins, invigorating her comedy with new life and dynamism.
The show is cleverly structured around an online therapy session which allows ‘Ally’ to explore a range of emotional highs and lows through fantastic songs. With complicatedly funny lyrics and a lovely voice, she serves up a musical banquet. Self-aware and ironic, she is sweet with the hope of youth and bitter with the aftertaste of harsh reality. Her song about the first time we fall in love surely left no dry seat in the house!
Lighting designer Aron Murray and sound designer Marlon Grunden had a well-timed interplay of effects to augment the performance, and little slip-ups were dealt with deftly by Morgan who had the audience in the palm of her hand. Grace Deacon’s set captured both the claustrophobic sense of a small room, and the blue-sky freedom of a huge cyclorama.
Morgan has so many ideas she wants to convey that floods of thoughts and observations tumble over themselves throughout the show; it could do with a bit of tightening but in a way that is part of the charm of the piece. Her delivery style found the right balance between the stereotypical self-centred Gen Z who’s totally wanting to fix the world but finds themselves caught up in the realities of daily life.
Director Miranda Middleton kept the pacing quick and the staging dynamic, ending with some joyful audience participation as we sang along with Ally’s final eminently hopeful and uplifting song – “We are here, and we will die someday, but not today…”
SCATTERGUN AFTER THE DEATH OF RŪAUMOKO
Written and performed by Ana Chaya Scotney
An utterly different performance to the first show last night could not be found. One woman alone on a completely empty black stage, the enigmatic title giving no clues away. Using only her body, face, voice and well-trained tongue, Ana Chaya Scotney brought to life a plethora of characters, ideas, and emotions. Her monologue was pure poetry, delivered in such a balletic and visceral manner it was captivating.
Scotney has the grace of a ballerina but the solid heft of a soldier. It was wonderful to watch some of the moves that seem so familiar to an outsider of the intimidating ritualistic haka, performed by a woman and in a completely different context. The physicality of her acting style and skill in mime and dance reminded me of Stephen Berkoff in his heyday performing Greek or Decadence. She populated the stage with men, women and children, old and young, joyful and angry, and held whole conversations with herself where the audience could literally picture the other people.
It’s a dark and complicated performance, leavened with classic dry, self-deprecating Kiwi humour and a world-weary refusal to just accept things as they are.
As close as Australia is socially and economically to New Zealand, there are still so many ways in which our paths as countries and societies have diverged, none more so than our respective treatment of our First Nations peoples. This performance was a powerful portrayal of contemporary New Zealand and its relationships across class, race, and gender. Scotney explores power, identity politics, and Indigenous longing with a deep personal integrity and intelligence.
Check out these shows as well as the remaining shows at the Sydney Fringe Festival by heading to https://sydneyfringe.com/
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