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Still lonely despite the sexy frocks



By Stephen Dunne / October 4, 2004

The Intimacies of Women

“Still lonely despite the sexy frocks”.

In her program note for this satisfying performance, the writer, director and designer Michelle St. Anne quotes a number of wide ranging influences on the work. The name that leaps out is Federico Fellini, which is possibly inevitable when the work features six young women in dead sexy black cocktail frocks and matching shoes, situated in a stylish cafe with white table cloths and oodles of classy, understated eroticism. It’s very Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita, complete with one token hunky bloke and some nicely graphic conversation about sexual experience. The women are caught between the public world of outward appearance and the smaller private terrain of the hidden and domestic.

Absence is important – a vocal motif runs, “I sit, sip on my tea, wearing warm slippers, thinking of you” – as is the symbolism of simple domestic objects. Most memorable perhaps is a woman wrapped in an electric blanket, an icon of artificial warmth searching for a socket to plug herself into.

The audience is videoed and projected in close-up on a side wall, complete with breathy comment about the location of any males – “second row, two o’clock”. Yet there’s a loneliness and distance in the midst of this welter of intimacies, a reminder that having a stylish cocktail frock and a sexy attitude do not automatically guarantee warm inter-relationships.

St Anne’s work mixes physical theatre, installation and text in an open-ended and happily inconclusive piece about female inter-relationships. Of course there’s also mother, and perhaps the greatest intimacy is parental. What happens in a world where the lore of mothers is often not passed on, where the simple secrets (in this case how to make a gravy) fall through the generation gap?

St Anne’s production is not in the TAP Gallery theatre, but in the gallery space. This welcome move gives the work a more generous space, which St Anne effectively fills with strong performances, striking lighting (Jo Elliott) and excellent sound (Peter Keogh). The performers – the author and Caitlin Beresford-Ord, Eileen Camilleri, Rebecca Davis, Carol Divjas, Marcello Fabrizi, Susannah Hardy, Paulina Sgambellone – contribute fine work, and this is an entertaining and often funny contemporary performance work, one that mixes serious intent with wit and keen insight.

As an open text, it’s very much up to the viewers to construct their own meanings from the work, yet the process is worthwhile and satisfying. If only the production’s resources had extended to a fountain for the Ekbergettes to wantonly; willfully dance in.

This is an entertaining and often funny contemporary performance work.