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Print Version

I, Monster
Conceived and performed by Kyah Dove

at BATS Theatre (Out Of Site), Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington
From 19 Mar 2014 to 22 Mar 2014
[50 mins]

Reviewed by Lyne Pringle, 22 Mar 2014

I Monster danced and created by Kyah Dove explores, from my reading, the terrain of the sexed and assaulted body, in a grapple with the issues of the feminist body in today's environment:  it asks questions, challenges and cavorts between ‘pretentious' art practice and strong reclamation of ‘the gaze'.  The programme notes place the work as an exploration, morphing and mutating between, man, monster and machine.  Dove wants us to be uncomfortable – I can go with that for the purposes of her thesis.

Where is gets unclear though, is the line between; her personal demons, and sense that she could take a couple of steps back from this rawness; and a metaphorical portrayal, her body as a canvas for pressing concerns, in which case she could afford to be clearer about the message and find a less tentative delivery.

That said it is a brave and at times imaginative work. Two TV screens count time passing and summon urgency. Dove greets us, topless, all her garb cosseted in knickers with the word Barbie emblazoned on the front, her body distorted - made strange. A discombobulated mannequin is strewn haphazardly between a shopping cart and the floor.

Donning a white suit, sneakers and several wigs, all from her knickers, she murmurs to us from behind one of the wigs. The work takes a while to lift off and absorb, which is exacerbated by an extremely noisy camera person in the back row incessantly snapping. Direct confrontation, particularly the line “If I trimmed my pubic hairs would that make this art?” brings an element of humour and engagement and for the next while the work fully absorbs. A breast feeding dinosaur breaks the ice.

With an androgynous look, choreography emerges, albeit sketched and needing development. 

The strongest element of the work is the text which has substance, a push and pull of imagery that moves in and out of the body, expanding and contracting at the same time – intriguing in its paradox and complexity. Dove plays with a delivery that is almost like a stutter before she drops into the stream of her words to carry us along. She is a dancer talking and would benefit from working on her voice; breathless, important words are in danger of disappearing before they reach our ears e.g. ”birds flying through our insides”.

The images are strong; a mannequin in a white square with a string attached, a dancer gagged with a strip that says ‘fragile' morphing into a red light actor gorging on a string of disconnection. “Getting the monster out, seeking beauty” says the white suited wig witch.

In pieces, pulling herself, together she attempts to reassemble the mannequin. This is unsuccessful but the effort leads the work to a peaceful catharsis – gentle poetic text and a melodic chant on top of a broken dummy as time ticks by.

Sometimes it takes too long to get to the point and the focus is blurry but there are glimmers of truth and profundity on this journey.

This solo performance is augmented by a sympathetic sound track from James Gaunt and inventive lighting by Peter Dransfield.

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