PANCHE FILLED FRINGE OPENING
Dunedin Fringe 2012
Anna and Miriam Noonan, Jordan Maynard
at Mary Hopewell Theatre, Dunedin
From 15 Mar 2012 to 18 Mar 2012
Reviewed by Hannah Molloy, 16 Mar 2012
A little heart can be brave and there's a lot of bravery in Piccolo Cor, from the collaboration between sisters Anna and Miriam Noonan to first time performer Jordan Maynard. A collaboration between sisters and a collaboration between performing arts, a feat acknowledged by Anna and Miriam themselves as not just as simple as one might think.
The two arts do blend seamlessly though and you're left with a sense that the two really are parts of a whole, as sisters can also be. Sisters Anna and Miriam bring their different expertise and practice to the creation of this work and the result is a testimony to this familial bond.
Walking into the intimate Mary Hopewell Theatre, where the audience perches on cushioned steps, like an ancient amphitheatre but with better lighting, the audience is greeted with a colourful chaos of performers testing a pile of clothing for the perfect item, trying each one on and discarding it with an elegant sense of purpose. Reminiscent of a sneaky sisterly rummage in a wardrobe, the scene is set for this performance about connection with others, by allowing oneself to be vulnerable and thus visible.
The process by which Piccolo Cor was developed included interviews and discussions about the themes of vulnerability, belonging and happiness. The dialogue from these discussions has been worked into the weft of the work, with performers externalising the innermost anxious and frustrated thoughts that plague most of us from time to time. There was a momentary lapse into slightly self absorbed pessimism but the work fluently tells the story of the heart it takes to let someone else see you, warts and all.
Piccolo Cor is a work many will identify with, as it describes the anxiety of being alone and misunderstood and what that means - "There are five people in my life..." - to laying bare one's soul to another and accepting their foibles and allowing them to accept yours.
The performers introduce themselves, defining themselves as subsets of the group, with a skill or an experience in common - "we all attended Catholic school", "we speak German" - but they quickly begin to compare, defining themselves as individuals, and to compete with each other - "I danced at the Sydney Olympics", "I performed with two companies..." - until they run out of words to better each other with and are left standing a little lost and alone in rows.
Moving from the spoken word back to dance and back to words, the work takes the audience along on the journey, engaging eye, ear, mind and empathy. The finale is a whirl of playground tussle and fun, expressing the freedom and joyous energy to be found in conscious vulnerability and allowing oneself to be seen.
The performers' training is apparent in their clear, gentle movements and strong, meticulous feet. They move around the stage fluidly and constantly, but there is a great stillness in parts of the performance as well, both physical and aural, that provides a counterpoint to the energy and offers moments of reflection. A little humour interspersed as well (eating an apple under a tree, a comment about how great your dad's pizza is - this one struck a chord with the audience...) means Piccolo Cor doesn't become immersed in introspection but remains hopeful.
Performing on the first night of the Fringe Festival could be a daunting prospect, but this group carried it off with panache. Just over 40 minutes long, I could have watched for longer. In fact, as the performers were applauded, the entire audience stayed in its seat, hoping for more of this work, to see where it would go next.
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