Express Media

By Emily Cooney / expressmedia.org.au / Oct 11, 2009

Man 40 seeks Woman with Good Legs & Billie

‘Content may disturb’
‘Partial nudity’

As the audience file expectantly downstairs to the theatre beneath the art gallery that is fortyfivedownstairs, these words can be read on the walls. These warnings are not to be taken lightly. Expect to be disturbed, aroused, disgusted and awed by these performances. This is no Jersey Boys.

‘Man 40…’ 

The first performance is an exploration of human relationships. It covers the spectrum from lovers, to mates, to parents and children and the competition between women for men. The action is electric, with charged performances from all 7 actors. The audience is swept along by the raw emotion of the piece that is at times confronting and disturbing, as you find yourself being able to relate to aspects of the relationships being played out in front of you.

This is enhanced by the set up of the stage and seating area. There is no traditional, raised and centralised stage at fortyfivedownstairs. It is, rather, reminiscent of a large warehouse, with the audience seated along one length of it on the same level as the actors. The performance occurs in all areas of this vast stage. The effect is one of immersion in the action to the extent that at times I felt uncomfortable due to the close proximity of the players.

The lighting is low, supporting the highly sexual nature of the performance. The use of shadows enhances the theme and heightens the already eerie and seductive feel of the performance.

‘Billie’

There is a common theme carrying over from ‘Man 40’ to ‘Billie’. We are again confronted with the relationship between parent and child and the effect parent’s actions have on their children. ‘Billie’ explores this in the story of a young girl who is sexually abused by her father who also beats her mother, and then left stranded by this mother, wearing nothing but a pair of underpants.

The performance is stunning, as it unfolds the lone actress slams the disturbing action into the faces of the audience without softening the realities. The content may disturb, but the performance will inspire. In my opinion (which I admit is not that of a theatre expert), the performance of Michelle St. Anne as both the young girl and the girl grown up is the highlight of the night. Michelle St. Anne is the director and designer of both ‘Billie’ and ‘Man 40’.

If you are seeking a thought provoking, professional experience, or perhaps just a good set of legs, then the double bill of ‘Man 40’ and ‘Billie’ is the show for you.