COMEDY CONVEYS SERIOUS CONTENT OF DISCONTENT
NZ Fringe Festival 2013|
TAKE BACK THE HOOD
at Fringe Bar, Cnr Cuba & Vivian, Wellington
From 6 Mar 2013 to 9 Mar 2013
Reviewed by Lori Leigh, 11 Mar 2013
Underneath the simplistic moral of Little Red Riding Hood's “don't talk to strangers” is a cautionary tale about the dangers of seduction. Implicit in such ethics is the assumption that the correction of the crime lies within the victim rather than the perpetrator. Thank you fairy tale morality for unconsciously defining the way we see the world from a very early age.
And thus begins the premise of Deborah Eve Rea's one-woman show Take Back the Hood, where the title character ‘Red' claims the role of narrator to retell her story and derail such assumptions. The announcement of each chapter refrains that this is the “liberation edition”, implying the very act of voicing her story is freedom from the snares of oversimplified, patriarchal morality.
This is not simply a new version of Little Red Riding Hood, however. Soon, it becomes apparent that this is Rea's story too (and unfortunately the story of many women) and there is power in the personal narrative.
Red (Rea) is centre-stage, dressed in black, symbolically cloaked by her scarlet hood. Appropriately, she begins by cutting off Sam the Sham and the Pharoah's 1966 song ‘Little Red Riding Hood' with “You may think you know me, but you don't.”
Red would be alone if not for her assortment of storytelling aids such as her keyboard, wolf mask, skull on a stick (Death), and microphone. In tandem with the use of these props is a plethora of performative arts such as music, monologue, stand-up comedy, and slam poetry. It's as if Red will use whatever is at her disposal to let the audience ‘know' the real her.
The show is humorous, clever, and brave. By not isolating the incident of trauma, it broadens focus by exploiting the fairy tale platform to discuss repercussive experiences such as teenage suicide, group therapy, and panic attacks.
Though its subject matter is heavy, the content of the piece is largely comedic. To give some examples, Rea goes on a failed date with Death to the movies, is assigned to group therapy with classic fairy tale characters complete with a needy Goldilocks and only one ‘Happy' dwarf, and has a counsellor explain anxiety through the use of a balloon animal and pin.
Another source of the show's wit and entertainment are the distinctly Kiwi references such as stuff.co.nz (the source of the headline “Boy Cries Wolf”), ACC, the Big Bad Wolf restaurant on Wakefield street, and Coastlands Mall in Paraparaumu, which unfortunately for Red has a ban on hoodies.
Surprisingly, it is in grappling with this ‘hoods down' policy at Coastlands Mall where the show climaxes in inspiration and challenge. After setting the record straight, there is an expectation and indication that Red will cast off her hood and forget her past as a storybook moral. Fairy tale, after all, implies ‘fairy tale ending', happiness or, as JRR Tolkien said in his essay on the subject, “joy”.
Such a conclusion is often effected by a handsome prince on white horseback or “pakeha pony” as it's ingeniously referred to here. But Red powerfully reminds us that there is no prince (or woodcutter, as it were) in Little Red Riding Hood and to deny our hoods is ironically to shroud part of who we are or, perhaps more importantly, who we are becoming. The ‘happily ever after' here comes not from a casting off, but rather from an acknowledgment: “what happened to me was not my fault.”
As I write this retrospectively of the Fringe awards, I will note here that I'm pleased Rea received two nominations for awards: one for best solo performance and one for best promotion of a show (produced by Phoebe Smith/poster by Hadley Donaldson). From its beginning as a Go Solo 2012 piece at Toi Whakaari, Take Back the Hood has developed and expanded for the Wellington Fringe 2013. This progression shows a commitment to the work and its need to reach a wider audience. Just as the show had a life beyond drama school, I hope that this important piece will continue to evolve beyond the Fringe.
Near the end of the piece, Red states, “We are the change generation” and asks, “Is anybody listening?” On closing night, I hear an audience member whisper the answer, “Yes.” To Rea, thanks for stepping up to the mic. To the audience member, thanks for answering. I hope in the future our “yeses” become audible.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.
See also reviews by: