An Unfortunate Woman

BATS Theatre, Wellington

23/05/2006 - 27/05/2006

ODDFELLOWS Comedy Festival

Production Details

Nicola Gunn

An absurd and gothic mystery – love story – quest about an overweight middle-aged man in a one-woman tour-de-force. Following a sell-out international tour, Gunn’s gallery of elegantly twisted characters irrevocably intertwine when Stanley Trundle misplaces a file at the Registry of Births and Deaths.

In a tale of delusion, infidelity and social outcasts, this is a performance of physical luminosity as wicked as it is tender.

Theatre , Comedy , Solo ,


Female souls bared #2

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 28th May 2006

Nicola Gunn’s solo piece, An Unfortunate Woman, is a macabre and surreal piece of physical theatre that is both absorbing and intriguing, even if the mix of 15 characters and 3 interlinking stories does become confusing at times. 

A performer of amazing ability, physical dexterity and incredible control, Gunn creates a fascinating range of Dickensian characters, some funny, some sad, some pathetic, that, though initially it’s difficult to grasp their connection, slowly emerge as all part of an overall story. 

Using nothing but the elasticity of her body and her voice, Gunn creates vivid images of both her characters and their surroundings – the upstairs-downstairs of a creaky old English mansion and the characters that inhabit it but one example of many that she presents in a very real way.  It makes this complex but not always clearly defined piece of theatre well worth watching.


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Insightful delightful pleasure

Review by John Smythe 25th May 2006

The quality show of the Comedy Festival so far is Nicola Gunn’s An Unfortunate Woman – a tragic-comic tour-de-force of semi-silent, character-based solo theatre. It comes to New Zealand via Canada from an English-born performer who moved to Melbourne aged 10 and began her training there.

Using the physical language of Etienne Decroux and Embodiment as taught by French-trained Australian Leisa Shelton – and directed by Mexico-born Canada-based Mark Chavez – Nicola Gunn blends superbly executed mime conventions with mask-less caricatures who also have voices. Some dozen characters people the stage to flesh out her poignant tale of denial, betrayal and moving on.

Stanley Trundle ekes out a living in the bureaucratic Registry of Births and Deaths, despotically ruled by a Dickensian director. Hubert DuBois is a psychiatrist with issues aplenty on his own plate. The story starts by posing two questions – Why is Hubert about to hang himself? Where is Stanley going with his suitcase? – and proceeds to gradually reveal their answers.

In so doing the present intersects effortlessly with the past, exploring telling dimensions of moral innocence and corruption within the ubiquitous British class system. Without giving too much away, Hubert’s mother, Clara, is deranged and delusional, his father, Henry, has fallen down the cracks, his wife comes and goes, and gripped as he is with guilt and failure, his faithful dog, Puddles, is just too shallow.

The question I’m left with is why, when the writer-performer is a woman and she calls her show An Unfortunate Woman (referring to Clara), does she choose to make the men her main characters? Of course there’s no real reason why not – what better way to explore the mysterious realms beyond one’s own experience? It’s just that the commedia dell’arte / silent movie traditions are so replete with male tragi-comedic folk heroes, the genre is crying out to be revitalised from a female perspective.

That said, the show is idiosyncratic, insightful, delightful and a pleasure to witness.


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