Te Karanga Gallery, Auckland

15/11/2013 - 15/11/2013

Production Details


Entertainer Leigh Fitzjames is back in New Zealand with Lamb (You’ll Be A Sheep Soon) – monologues about a year of self imposed celibacy told in a Mike Daisy stylised comedy show.

Lamb (You’ll Be A Sheep Soon) is a collection of stories about a sex free lifestyle choice and the cultural cringe encountered in North America and New Zealand. Inspired by an emerging genre of ‘storytelling’ made popular by the Moth Poetry Slam in NYC, Fitzjames will make light of justifying abstinence and overcoming sexual frustration. Questionably self indulgent, the performance will tract a year long narrative and feature musical compositions by Gershwin and Gustav Mahler.

About the Creator 

Leigh Fitzjames has recently performed Off Broadway in New York City at The Abingdon Theatre and The Producers Club as well as performing in prestigious poetry and jazz venues and touring one woman show Love and Light. Locally, she has performed spoken word at recent charity events such as Live Below the Line and The Porn Project.

November 15, 2013 
7:30 pm 
Te Karanga Gallery, 208 Karangahape Rd, Auckland. 
Tickets $5 – 10 
Register here  

Theatre , Monologue ,

A fizzer

Review by Johnny Givins 16th Nov 2013

I applaud creative artists with the gumption to get a show together and show it to the public.  The energy and passion overcomes many of the flaws in scripting, production, direction, and theatre skills. Unfortunately Leigh Fitzjames accomplishes all these limitations with few of the benefits.  

Lamb (you’ll be a sheep soon) is a one off show at the renovated Te Karanga Gallery in Karangahape Road.  I haven’t been up the stairs to the old Pa where many media companies started for a long time.  It’s a great space that I hope other creative artist will use in the future. 

Leigh Fitzjames meets the audience with tape on her mouth and every communication is done with hands and shrugs.  The audience moves into the exhibition space which has a pile of glass clippings and a bench with a sheep skin.  Interesting I thought!  Fitzjames then sits down on a chair and ties herself to it with gaffer tape.  An audience member finally goes and helps her get the tape off and find a lipstick in her pocket which she then applies to the actor.  Why?  

Great idea but I was waiting for the link to the story.  It never came.  The chairs arrived out of the ceiling as all the audience had to get their own chair and sit around in horseshoe.  Again a great idea… but why?

Fitzjames then starts to tell a story. I think it is about her sexual adventures in New York and Toronto and why she had given up sex for 18 months.  However I am not sure as there is little logic to the story telling and all dramatic scenes seem to disappear into a cloud of passionate angst interspersed with unrelated ‘audience participation’.  We fill condoms with grass! I suppose it has some meaning but it completely misses my appreciation.

Perhaps Lamb (you’ll be a sheep soon) is about women rejecting sexual stereotypes. Fitzjames certainly does everything to ‘desex’ her look.  Big check shirt, black pants, long loose hair so we can’t see the eyes of actor expressions until she turns and looks directly at you. 

But she does do lots of simulated sex on the sheepskin, talks lots about pussy, and ‘talking the truth’. It is neither sexy nor truthful in a dramatic and affecting way.  The emotions are never given a chance to reach the audience.  It’s like a drug-induced dream filled with unexplained and unrelated experiences which only cast light on one element – the rest forgotten. 

There are many excellent ideas and creative concept unveiled in the process of this production. With more work it may develop into a coherent whole in the future but certainly not in this performance. 

Sexual history of a young woman is a great modern topic; woman artists really talking about their pussies, their false dreams, the neutering of women in the suburban environment … These are all excellent areas for artistic revelation.  However you have to develop the script and production to give it theatrical power and crafts. This event was a fizzer.  Long on promise but no bang!


James Levy November 23rd, 2013

As the sands in the hourglass, so too the responses. The lovely Alexa loses for using the "Roastbusters Bomb" which automatically disqualifies the deployer, oh and for being bonkers as well. The sultry Leigh Fitzjames fails as her ego has sadly taken over her brain and the handsome Matt loses by being a horrid boy, and boys just don't get it. I lose from leaving well alone. Tune in next week!

Matt Baker November 22nd, 2013

Actually, Leigh, it’s not fair at all for you to ask me to reconsider my statement simply because I haven’t done any broad research on the subject of sexism, but still wish to comment on it. If you want to use that vein of argument, then perhaps you should reconsider everything you’ve written considering you don’t seem to have done any broad research on the craft of theatre criticism, yet feel the need to comment on Johnny’s review. You also seem to really enjoy making declarative statements about other people, like insinuating some lack of sincerity on my part, which tells me you’re in no position to throw out accusations about myopic and provincial points of view either.

The reason for me not addressing all the points made in previous comments, is simply because it’s actually incredibly hard to understand you due to syntax and grammar. I am being absolutely serious when I write that. There are also a lot of tangents forming in singular paragraphs. I could break down every single thing you (and Alexa) have said and address your points as clearly and precisely as possible, but to be honest, I don’t think we’re ever going to see eye to eye, since you seem to feel that I’m ‘against’ you. Which is a shame, because, as I’ve said before, while I agree with Johnny’s review, I felt the show had potential, and my intentions were never to ‘denigrate’ you, as you put it. You clearly don’t believe I am sincere, so there’s a clearly no point in this conversation going any further.

Leigh Fitzjames November 22nd, 2013

Matt, ignorance depends on having myopic and provincial views - AKA lazy desires. This has turned into what looks like an age old debate between reviewers and artists, men and women, theatre vs other. Boring banter that is no service to the hundreds if not thousands of audience members this production hopes to attract (thanks John!). You will not be 'educated' nor 'enlightened' about sexism or any other concept within the brevity of this debate. I am not an educator but have invested a lot towards this discourse, as have other celebrated thinkers. Many have learnt alot as an outcome of the show and this thread, they continue the discourse in places where artists aren't antagonising reviewers and men aren't up against women etc.

It is clear you lack sincerity when inquiring about sexism. You have not addressed half the points made in previous comments and have thrown a red herring - challenging the artist personally to discourse. I applaud your inquiry about the issue at hand, but hope in future you will do so with sincerity and grace, with no desire to denigrate the artist or other members of this conversation.

It's true, every person is entitled to their own view of the work and I'm lucky to see intelligent minds continuing to engage in public. Johnny's view was expressed through the review. Indeed, there is no 'incorrect' interpretation. I am not going to tell a reviewer how to do their job. But  for credibility, a reviewer must be prepared to qualify their interpretation with applied understanding around the genre they refuse to separate the work from. As Alexa has done so by making references to performance art. Know for example that gender pronouns do matter in 'woman's genre'.

An audience experiences a work based on their own projections. Matt, you admitted a bias for preferring conventional theatre. Now, after admitting you have not done ANY broad research in regards to sexism, I think it is fair that we would like you to reconsider your comment: "it certainly should not be considered a sexist conclusion to be made."

Matt Baker November 22nd, 2013

“…an adversary response to the work,” Are you serious, Alexa? Can it not be that I simply did not think the work fulfilled its potential and agree with Johnny’s review? Why is that taken to be adversarial?

You also say ‘for reasons [I do] not want to state really’ and then proceed to flippantly reject my critical statements with lols and lmaos.

I never said I didn’t know what sexism was; I said I had never done research on the subject. I didn’t realise research was necessary to be considered to have an understanding of something, as opposed to simply being an active member of society, reading newspapers, engaging in dialogues, etc.

And I have not asked myself ‘what is sexism?’ That’s literally libellous of you to say.

alexa wilson November 22nd, 2013

I am absolutely all for the homegrown voices of NZ, having created original work myself for 10 years in NZ while knowing increasingly over time that it had some roots elsewhere across the world, across many art forms. Thanks for bringing that up John, this is absolutely what this show and work condones. 100 per cent. It revitalises and speaks to a NZ culture from a NZ voice, but having international experience should not cause people to feel defensive. These issues are global. Thanks for the discussion everyone. Thanks Emma, yes reviewers talking about art need to be aware of the wider performing arts milieu they are engaging with before they step into print given that they are representing the work and responsible for making more permanent what has been ephemeral as John has stated. 

Leigh is essentially a story teller as she has said, using performance art, theatrical/dance and 'relational art' forms to playfully adorn her ideas. These are all an extension of her voice, because the body is also the voice, and so is the audience, to whom she is sharing. Her work is 'alive and sensate' magnifications of personal stories which I would say align mostly with women's literature, poetry and stand up comedy. I want to commend Leigh on sharing her stories, for speaking her truth about her experience as a woman in a patriarchal culture, which clearly has caused a ripple in the local community affecting people, men and women alike - this is all we can ever hope for as artists. I agree that experimental artists, particularly very truthful ones with issues of social commentary, create work which can be polarising and must deal with the polarisation they have created, myself knowing all too well. What a great mission! Its great that Matt, as a reviewer himself in Auckland theatre, asks himself now 'what is sexism?' That's so excellent, well done Leigh! 

And its not just her who said it was sexist, it was also me.

It seems like you have dug up some good food for thought there with your work, however I don't like to see any artist whose truth has affected people any which way being shouted down by someone who clearly had an adversary response to the work, for reasons he does not want to state really, claiming that something is definitely 'not sexist' while in the same breath saying he doesn't know what sexism is! Hmmm. Hmmm. 

For some present day NZ cultural context; the next day after this show a protest occurred nation wide called 'Bust Rape Culture' in which a petition was signed by 100,000 NZers brought to light by a group of young men raping young women in our culture who are now invalidating these young women's experiences of harassment in this society. The stats of sexual harassment and sexual violence in NZ don't look too shit hot, (NZ is not alone with that), given that no one listens to them, particularly not authorities who are meant to protect them, which then ripples out to the rest of our culture. Is it really a surprise that a man may ask in this context - what is sexism? Their word against hers, these things are all ephemeral right? 

Leigh shared experiences of harassment and sexuality, told from own her heart and delivered through her own mouth, through her own art, through her own body, these do not need invalidation from men who do not admit that sexism exists within this very review. The reviewer says "talks lots about pussy, and ‘talking the truth'. It is neither sexy nor truthful in a dramatic and affecting way. The emotions are never given a chance to reach the audience." This is one person's opinion, it didn't reach HIM, it is invalidating and sexist. Lesson for Matt; Sexual harassment - chronicled in Leigh's work and a reason for her subsequent celibacy, this is sexism. Presuming a woman or show must be sexy from a very prescriptive perspective of this notion, especially while telling stories about her experience of sex (and sexism), and claiming it "not sexy", is sexist. Who said anything needed to be sexy? And maybe it was for some people, who cares. She's re-evaluating gender stereotypes, as said. Perhaps for NZ/world culture, the word SEXIST died when the word FEMINISM became a dirty word. Well hey, face it its back. Infact it never went away. 

Why? Why? Because a predatory culture and inequality remains, even while and even maybe because women become more empowered, more out spoken, more independent. And more objectified in an undercutting way. And that's just in the first world. If women were respected for the power they have even by each other at times, these stories wouldn't need to be told. So let's turn a page.

I understand that some men do not like hearing women chronicle their sexual experiences, particularly if they're a bit shit, particularly through humour, just as some women do not like hearing the opposite - which would be labelled sexist - and often is - in men's stand up comedy. But we live in a culture which continues to make women feel invalidated for their experiences and voices, even in the arts, so these stories are very important to keep telling. And with humour and talent, even better!!!!!!! Vulnerable power, beautiful. I am curious actually what Matt's reasons for not liking the show really are aside from its untidiness. This way you put yourself on the line instead of repeatedly silencing the artist, allowing her to speak and owning your response. From many reports, men as well as women, enjoyed this show even if the reviewers didn't. 

As for messiness, LOL LMAO, this aint theatre, this definitely be PERFORMANCE ART. BRING IT. Its playful!




LET'S BE FREE, Connected. 

John Smythe November 21st, 2013

You have misread me, Emma. I said, "... the only qualification a person should need to engage with a play is to be alive and sensate; the practitioners job is to stimulate engage our senses, feelings and intellects …"  Of course critics need more qualifications than that but one of their functions is to evaluate the work on behalf of the hundreds of not thousands of people the production hopes to attract.

Emma Willis November 21st, 2013

I have to say this is the first time that I have made a comment on this site, but I feel compelled to respond to one comment made above in regard to qualifications for reviewing. It is the prerogative of the site and its editor to select whomever they feel appropriate as reviewers and the community certainly has expressed its appreciation for the site as a whole. However should being 'alive and sensate' really be the only criteria for publishing a review on a site that largely caters to the performig arts community (and I assume funding must be partially given in recognition of this). Surely there needs to be a degree of sensibility involved here. Shouldn't the reviewer be qualified to assess the work within its artistic context, draw appropriate comparisons and so on? If such a reviewer is unavailable then perhaps better not to review at all for it seems to do no service to either artists or audiences. Criticism is invaluable to developing artistic discourses but uninformed criticism seems only to have the effect of stultifying rather than fostering artistic development.

Hong Yul Yang November 21st, 2013

All I wanted to say was: Matt, you're the man.

Gosh I wish I had been there to experience it.

Matt Baker November 21st, 2013

How exactly did I imply that artists lack objectivity?

It’s not about justification, Leigh, it’s about discourse. There’s a difference. No one expects you as the artist to justify your work on this thread. Clarify perhaps, if you felt so inclined, but not justify.

It’s a pity that you are not willing to discuss sexism when it was you who instigated the subject with your comment about the review. Perhaps you could have educated or enlightened me.

I believe a critic should attempt to be as informed as possible, but, unfortunately, we can’t be expected to have undertaken ‘broad research’ of every single topic that could possibly be addressed in the theatre, regardless of its history or prevalence.

John Smythe November 21st, 2013

That’s a new one on me, Leigh: “reviews are a tool designed for audiences and getting bums on seats”. It may be so that publicists and producers use favourable reviews that way but we reviewers write reviews in order to: acknowledge the existence of ephemeral work and ‘write it into history’; evoke the nature of the work for prospective audiences; critique /evaluate /celebrate or otherwise the quality of the work involved …

The great advantage of an online site like Theatreview is that it reduces the editorial power the print media has, allowing free, frank and relatively immediate exchanges of ideas and opinions. It also allows practitioners to ask for any errors of fact to be corrected. And because it remains ‘on the record’ forever, rather than becoming ‘tomorrow’s fish ’n’ chip paper’, it behoves us all to maximise the potential and lasting value of the discourse. It seems obvious to me there is a major role for the artists to play in this, which may well extend beyond the presentation of the work itself.

As for ‘researching sexism’, it is surely a given than anyone involved with the performing arts is engaged in an ongoing enquiry into the human condition within all sorts of social and political contexts. Why else would we do it?

Leigh Fitzjames November 21st, 2013

Copping out goes back to my original sentiment - I don't feel artists should discuss in this platform - as Matt implies in his last comment- artists lack objectivity. I find it overindulgent when an artist tries to justify their work to reviewers, reviews are a tool designed for audiences and getting bums on seats. Great discussion though - it's tragic when people try to silence or devalue a debate - I hope it continues!!! 

Also, I don't wish  to discuss sexism with those who have made no prior inquiry. I assumed all theatre reviewers had researched sexism (I mean broadly as part of their theatrical experience, not necessarily academically) because of my ideologies around ignorance. 

Matt Baker November 21st, 2013

You may have deliberately used no gender identifiers, but you cannot escape the fact that you are a woman and that that is a box that the audience will immediately put you in when contextualising the show. It’s unavoidable. We do it everyday. So I fail to see how taking that context one logical step further and saying that you are presenting a woman’s story is interpreted as such an extreme accusation as a sexist comment. It may be ‘incorrect’ in your meaning, but it cannot be ‘incorrect’ if it’s an interpretation made when considering both the creator and the performer, and it certainly should not be considered a sexist conclusion to be made.

The ‘desex’ comment is about gender – it’s not about whether you’re sexy or not. You clearly took that one the wrong way. Which is ironic considering it addresses something you apparently deliberately tried to do.

Criticising the lack of truthfulness does not have ANYTHING to do with the declaration that it is a woman’s story. It is in no way insinuated to be a consequential conclusion.

I find it ironic that you bring up the term ‘woman’s genre’, when accusing someone of being sexist, and, no, I have not done ANY research about sexism, I’m genuinely unclear as to why you assume that about me.

Finally, saying ‘these comments lose their weight coming from the artist’ is an absolute cop out. You may as well not be posting, because you’re essentially throwing in your two cents and then removing any accountability.

Leigh Fitzjames November 19th, 2013

Lol lol lol lol lol lol lol. This has been the most demanding show ever. I am learning so much. If I didn't respect your intelligence and the work of other "woman" artists, I wouldn't do this. 

- First of all, I never identified this as 'a woman's story'. I l had deliberately used no gender identifiers in the show except to describe other characters, nor the press release other than the pronoun 'she' in my bio. Yet, the reviewer made LOTS of statements about 'woman'.

-Repeated use of the word "pussy". One person speculates this was used with false gratuity.  (I had not used the word at all until the end) but the re-emphasis of the word in the review suggests that the word disrupted the entire show. 

-Comments about the performer's physical attractiveness - what is 'sexy'? Is this measured according to whether the image had likeness to what the reviewer finds sexy? "Fitzjames certainly does everything to ‘desex' her look."...

- The reviewer declares that this is a WOMAN'S real story yet criticises for the lack of truthfulness - "woman artists really talking about their pussies" - He has decided to call this a woman' story yet does not engage with the narrative conventions of the woman's genre, he makes no reference to the existing canon of woman's work. (Alexa highlights this in her first comment).

- He offers no basis as to his presumption that this is a show about 'women rejecting sexual stereotypes'. What are the existing stereotypes? Again, why the gender identifier?

I think Alexa has already made some very astute comments on sexism.

Lastly, outside of the review, the show (I'm not arguing the artistic value) has since through this blog been reinterpreted to be experimental theatre or performance art. The press release states that it was storytelling in the vein of Mike Daisy and the NYC Moth Storyslammers. In later marketing and perhaps casual Facebooking,  I introduced the 'interactive' element. - For my ignorance, could you please refer me to a more helpful press release format so that these issues can be diminished in the future?

I understand that I may have opened up a can of worms but assume you are not in fact 'ignorant' and have done research about sexism and wanted specific examples to validate my comment. These comments lose their weight coming from the artist, hopefully more people discuss this HERE. As they already do in other forums. I have a whole range of political dispositions but truth and discourse is the one I value most. Even if I sound like one of those  earnest girls "exploring the limited gamut of their innocent yet tormented little lives". ;-) 

Matt Baker November 19th, 2013

No review coming from me, sorry, John. I don't think anyone from Theatre Scenes reviewed the show.

Matt Baker November 19th, 2013

"..objectively sexist review..."

Um, okay. For my clearly ignorant benefit, could you please point out which part of this review is sexist? Genuine question.

John Smythe November 19th, 2013

I am indeed always delighted when artists participate in any debates that arise around their work – it is, as Matt says, what the Comments option is all about. (Matt, I haven’t seen your review yet, is it yet to be published?) And I should note that, being in Wellington, I did not see this show, so my comments are general rather than specific. 

Leigh Fitzjames November 19th, 2013

THANK YOU MATT. I confess to being one of those artists who posted on my Facebook page and I have indulged in verbal discussion around the review... I'll make a disclamatory statement where possible. Also John, for noting that it is disapointing when works come across as being self serving. However, my arguments were very much in keeping with what Alexa Wilson wrote in her first comment. My concern about gender typing goes far beyond my artistic ego and I am not here to debate my credibility as an artist to discuss issues around sexuality. I have simply been exasperated by what seems to be an objectively sexist review and chose to speak out on behalf of myself and others who voiced their concerns. 

Matt Baker November 19th, 2013

On the contrary, Leigh, as the performance artist/creator this is exactly the place for you to speak. I am always disappointed when I hear of/see artists slagging critics/reviews on their Facebook pages and refusing to engage in what is designed to be a forum for theatrical discourse.

I wholeheartedly agree with both Johnny’s review and John’s input. I do not deny my subjectivity in that I prefer ‘conventional’ forms of theatre, and when it came to filling condoms with dirt I simply took the advantage of the sudden lull in the ‘narrative’ and popped out for a smoke. Had this lull not have happened, I would have stayed, because, as Johnny notes, there was plenty going on regardless of whether it ‘reached’ me or not.

My criticism of the show is that the sum of its parts did not justify the ‘messiness’ of the production overall. By messiness, I mean the reliance on audience participation which required people, who I assume were friends and/or family of Leigh, to verbalise what was necessitated of the former just to get the show started, as well as the narrative, which I would argue was not deconstructive, but under-edited and unpolished.

It seems to me that Johnny sees potential in this piece, as do I, but notes that it requires further development. He does not dismiss it in its entirety and even argues that the content is an “…excellent area[s] for artistic revelation”.

Perhaps the term horseshoe was used as a choice of words in keeping with the style of the show, considering a sawhorse was used on stage?

While the literal simulation of sex and use of the word ‘pussy’ was indeed minimal, the overall content of the show was inarguably focussed on sex and perhaps this is why the word ‘lots’ was used

Leigh Fitzjames November 19th, 2013

I know James, it's highly masturbatory! Yet John Smythe just said it's a valid discussion. Thanks for contributing! 

James Levy November 19th, 2013

It's still going? Classic. Can't decide if this is all real..Might be a parody from Portlandia or Little Britain.

Leigh Fitzjames November 19th, 2013

It is not my place as the "performance artist"/"Creator" to speak here, BUT:

(1) Would an informed, theatrically based critique would call a thrust stage "horseshoe"?

(2) Do 'sex', 'sexual' and 'sexy' all mean the same thing?

(3) Note that two instances of the word 'pussy' in the twenty page monologue and two instances of simulated sex on sheepskin have been quantified as 'lots'.

(4) I failed to reference Artaud's concept 'The Theatre of Cruelty' in the press release or program. 

John Smythe November 19th, 2013

This is a very valid discussion Alexa. I’m not surprised that dance reviewers respond differently to this sort of work because contemporary dance is relatively abstract compared with a lot of theatre (note strenuous efforts not to generalise). My base-line position when it comes to theatre is that the only qualification a person should need to engage with a play is to be alive and sensate; the practitioners job is to stimulate engage our senses, feelings and intellects … And of course it helps if audience are open to new experiences, responsive and adventurous.  The same applies to dance and music, separately or combined, although the base expectation will be that it will not be ‘trading’ in character, plot, etc, and will seek to engage at less literal levels – and that is true of much theatre too.

Performance art is something else again and (despite being of a generation that participated in ‘happenings’ and ‘agit prop’ street theatre as well as breaking down the ‘fourth wall’ and experimenting with theatre in many forms including ‘Dada’, ‘absurdist’ and totally abstract in the 1960s and since), I appreciate that performance art has come to ‘in the moment’ and ‘moment-by-moment’ live presentation via art schools rather than drama schools (meaning schools of thought as well as formal training institutions).

It seems to me that most ‘conventional’ works of art allow viewers to engage with them at their own pace, in their own way, for as little or as long as they like … And from a commercial perspective, only one person has to like it enough to want to buy it for it to be ‘validated’ in those terms. And they get to form a long term relationship with it. Theatrical presentation, however, is delivered to a group of people at an appointed time and place in a way that is largely determined by the artist(s) and experienced collectively by the audience, as well as individually and subjectively by each audience member, with some levels of engagement and ‘interaction’ being very personal and private, and no less valid for that. (And they pay in advance, on trust, although much less than for a single work of art.)

Of course anything prescriptive that is implied above is always going to be a target for the artist who wants to subvert perceived rules and expectations, disrupt, discombobulate, redefine the performer/audience relationship, regenerate and otherwise use the medium in unexpected ways to make their point, create an experience, stimulate interaction / discussion / debate … And it seems to me almost inevitable that such work will produce a variety of responses if not be thoroughly polarising. Indeed many a performance artist would be downright disappointed if polarisation did not occur.

The question that remains is, how ‘educated’ in the conventions / non-conventions of performance art may an artist expect their audience to be?  It seems relevant to add that I am always disappointed if the only object of the exercise is to draw attention to the art and artist for their own sakes rather as a means to a greater end, but that’s just me.

I accept a critic must be cognisant of the form – although by its very nature ‘form’ is the wrong word here. ~ cognisant of the concept? But it seems a bit retro if the premise is that the true exponents of performance art are overseas and all expressions of the concept should be measured against that. Such an approach would take us back to the way we saw theatre up to the 1950s. I’d like to think the principles could be applied and organically homegrown in ways that aim to engage audiences who are open to ‘difference’ but otherwise responding as humans being who may never have been to Berlin or wherever.

If anyone feels there are more specific qualifications a critic of performance art requires, please say so.  Theatreview is a performing arts website – do we need to stop and ask if performance art should be reviewed here or would it be better reviewed on ?

alexa wilson November 18th, 2013

I'd just like to clarify for myself that I am all for this reviewing site and want to refrain from generalising that negative or uninformed reviews occur all the time for experimental performance in NZ, because a lot of engaged and intelligent reviews also happen for this kind of work and more and more so through time and on this site. However these usually come from people who know a lot more about the context of this kind of work, ie can engage with its strategies so therefore access its content, which shouldn't be such a small pool of people. Because this kind of work is actually very prevalent worldwide and has been for a long time. If the reviewer was able to access the formalistic strategies, I would have more respect for his commentary upon the content, which he seems to have missed as a result. It seems that theatre has a harder time with these modes in AK than dance does, which somehow is streaks ahead in terms of reviewing this kind of work. Hence why some of these theatre artists often hang out in dance circles. Calling something pretentious is very precarious given that it is an artform's job to progress. Otherwise artforms completely stagnate and do not reflect the culture they're in at all. 

Emma A November 18th, 2013

If Leigh the Lamb became Leigh the Sheep (as you seem to require), where would be the intrigue, the difference, the evolution of theatre? Each to their own, but I feel this made us work to fight our own social pressures, as it seems that Leigh so often has.

alexa wilson November 18th, 2013

Just when you think a response couldn't become more ignorant, someone steps in who knows nothing about any of the situation to label actual creative exploration in NZ as 'pretentious', which is typical, belittle female art as 'innocent and tormented', which is also typical, see a sense of community and support as 'their friends', as if this is a negative thing, and knowledge based responses as 'uni style essay'. Thanks for stepping in to share the voice of ignorance, conservatism, naivete and misogyny once again. Its called trolling on the internet when people make comments like you did, which serve no one or nothing other than uninformed hatred. Supporting women is vital in this society because they're given shit continuously, incase you didn't realise, but its evidently lost on someone like you, who wants to reinforce negative ideas about female art, plus art in general. Stay home and watch TV if it makes you so uncomfortable.  

James Levy November 18th, 2013

Hilarious reading the comments. Takes me back to when I was a young'un and forced to watch pretentious theatre by young ladies exploring the limited gamut of their innocent yet tormented little lives. Then read all the reviews written in a breathless uni essay style by their friends.

Lauren November 18th, 2013

I am not a critic, nor a regular theatre enthusiast, so I can only comment based on my experience as a general member of the audience.  At events such as this i generally prefer to sit at the back and blend in with the furniture.  To my horror, this was not permissable as we were invited to participate - dance, grab a chair, fill a condom! Not wanting to be a wet blanket I played along (can't just sit here when she's personally handed down 30 chairs from a scary high attic for us to sit on!).  To my surprise, I struck up some amusing conversations to a chap on my right and a lady to my left, where we shared an unusual experience of filling a condom with dirt, holding it above our heads and chanting.  It certainly broke the ice and created a warm, intimate atmosphere... a very receptive environment for an actor spilling her guts out -eyes welling with emotion - right?  Clever. I witnessed an actor expressing a rare combination of vulnerability and fearlessness.  Bravo, Leigh!  Thank you for sharing your stories.

Leigh Fitzjames November 18th, 2013

Thank you Editor for providing a public forum where people can interpret work and interact freely. Audience participation at its finest!

Editor November 18th, 2013

Kristian, I am tempted to remove your comment because of the abusive language but given your slack self-editing of typos, I've decided to let your standards of communication speak for themselseves.

Justin Beaver November 18th, 2013

to the reviewer...who seems to need their theatre and art spoon fed to them in small easy to understand have given NO indication if this work was successful in anyway because as soon as the artist/performer gave you the tools to interact and stopped at WHY and where afraid to go any further....if you are questioning why is or has the Artist/ performer/dancer decided to do that you must be able to come to some conculsions of your own thinking

but you seem to switch off . please refrain from reviewing work unless you actually want to engage yourself in what the artist is doing ,and at least have some idea if they where sucessful in doing so .

and your sexist bias shows...

Kristian Larsen November 18th, 2013

Reviiews/ Wrinting like this embarsseses me.Seriously I feel ashamed to be a "NZer" when I see mediocre thinking backed up by lazy desires. And please dont come back at me with the omnipowerful 'right to an opinion. of a reviewer' One has a right to say what they hey want and that can also mean they sound like a fucktard in the process. One reason that experimental performance dies in this hmalet is because its never given its due right to become, evolve, and give time to its ideas. Im so bored with reviewers who think their opinion is worth more than the time spent by artists taking personal risks to develop their works under duress (ie: no funding at all for development). So to this review I say 'go fuck yourself'

alexa wilson November 17th, 2013



The reviewer asks not once but twice, also doubling up on the use of the word 'pussy' without very much consideration for its use. This is a reconstruction of theatre narrative btw. Fractured, pregnantly emptied of pandering, rearranged for you to make meaning, using the thing we call a brain in a highly fragmented, over media saturated epoch.

Asking 'why?' is exactly a response any artist of integrity and originality would want to elicit from an audience, because it means they are thinking, they are being asked to think.

To feel.

Pushed outside prescriptive confines of an art form. 'Why?' (I use it 4 times now). Because this is what meaningful art evokes. Asking audience members to collect chairs from a ceiling instead of them being readily available for you upon arrival, you have to reach for them. Have a think about it.

The performer with tape over her mouth greeting you in diy style to gesture you to the space and tying herself to a chair until someone removes the tape. Have a think about it.

These are deeply anti-establishment, strongly feminist deconstructive statements, which are of value to our current society and worthy of discussion not further oppression.

We make art so that people can think and feel beyond the confines of what they already know, this should be encouraged not disregarded as if the reviewer were hungover or texting someone for pivotal sections of the work. Why is the reviewer not paying attention?

People were implicitly invited to interact with this work, to take initiative and bring chairs down, to help each other bring chairs down, to ENGAGE, to be together as people and not just passive voyeuristic watchers, responsible, to remove tape from her mouth (which is a reference almost to Marina Abramovich who is the most famous, how can you miss her kind of thing, performance artist today, who invited the audience to participate in such a way).

From all accounts aside from this review, it seems that this work was met with the opposite response to this review, that is engaged, inspired, enlivened, interested, entertained, challenged. It sounded from all accounts formidable, intelligent, witty and enlightening about women's real experiences of sexuality, in processes which are evocative not spoon feeding, not ones you will see on TV. She is not an actor she is telling real stories. Why then does this artist have to suffer such a blank response in print? Why? (I repeat for dramatic tension and explain myself in doing so).

It is quite baffling to me how reviewers in any part of the world these days can be so uneducated about the historical and current worldwide precedence of deconstructive theatre, which is practically a household label in Europe. It is also reasonably widespread in NZ, in the theatres of AK, Wellington, Chch and Dunedin, across theatre, dance and performance art. Has this reviewer heard of Bertolt Brecht, one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th Century, whose seminal plays disrupted traditional narrative expectations so prevalent in main NZ theatres still, with fragmented story lines, absurdist humour, characters and metaphors? Really, that's just for starters. Is this reviewer so unaware of a history of post-modern cross-disciplinary theatre as to be lazy and dismissive, does he know there has been a 40 year movement toward a crossing of the art forms and questioning of these conventions? Has the reviewer heard of performance art or feminism?

The age old feminist slogan 'Personal is political'? I am reminded of a Carolee Schneeman piece in the 70s in New York who read the voices of her critics pulled from her vagina (not pussy, vagina, or quote 'pussy' if you use it because she used it otherwise you are appropriating the use of it which sounds sexist) labelling her work 'too personal'. It seems that we are on repeat here because these issues seem to stick, in the far regions of the world.

Unfortunately, it doesn't sound as if this reviewer is able to stretch past any preconceived notions of what 'theatre is' or 'should be' by very narrow conservative, almost Edwardian, standards. Last time I looked we were going on 2014 and a lot of stuff has been going on in our big sphere we call Earth. A lot more than narrative theatre. So so much more. Has the reviewer heard of the concept of alternative stories? Split/multi-narrative? Deconstruction? There is a very famous company called Forced Entertainment from Britain who has influenced theatre worldwide in the past 10 years, he should look them up. Aside from this a host of performing artists around NZ who have been engaging in similar strategies and being well regarded for it, look them up too.

I think one could guess from the title alone that this work is going to address a 'sheep like' quality in NZ culture, that is precisely critiquing the very choice to remain with conventions. Is this metaphor so difficult to understand? I can only imagine that the costume was also simulating a farmer (which anyone might think otherwise about the reviewers particular judgments upon what is sexy or appealing, which is entirely subjective like a woman in jeans is not sexy??? um, and is just a pretty sexist statement outright). I am reminded once again of prescriptive and oppressive gender stereotypes here. A checked shirt? This would not take much for most people to connect that it is a farming reference.

Can we please have intelligent reviewers taking powerful feminist performance art and alternative forms of theatrical and performative storytelling seriously and with some dignity in NZ please? Why must we suffer this fate of being put down for challenging conventional and patriarchal forms of story telling?

This could make for a good 'modern story' makes it sound very clinical and patronising, again marginalising alternative voices, no this is real stories from real people with real talent, GIVING you this story. It seems that it is not being heard by this reviewer. Why? Having made work of this nature myself within the confines of contemporary dance and at times fine arts in NZ, as well as internationally, I would like to think that NZ is able to step up with its reviewing standards of original work, work which takes risks and is original instead of falling behind in a veil of ignorance continually.

I am tempted to believe from what has been written here that this work pushes deep into the reviewer's defences and feelings about women. What he believes women should prescribe to as artists, how they should behave, what it is to be sexy from a fairly mainstream and sexist viewpoint, feelings of alienation about a power he does not seem to understand. Why not own that then? Why take a detached position when that is not what it really is? I am amazed when people respond to work with such negativity, which only really seems to happen with progressive original work in NZ from what I can see because it forces them to feel beyond what they know, that they don't look at themselves and think 'why am i responding this way?' or 'maybe the artist intended to do the things I am critiquing, and why is that?' or 'maybe she is calling into question my presumptions about gender and sexuality which is her point?'

Having something to say should not be discouraged in NZ arts. There's a whole world out there. There's a whole world in there, and its not conventional narrative theatre. Get excited, get ready, get connected, get educated, get understood, open your mind, be open, just a little open to interpretation, learn a little, if you're going to write reviews. Please know what you're talking about. Please just listen a little to what real people are making work about right here right now and why. It is not repertory theatre. And squashing strong female voices is just about as old as society itself, particularly young ones, alternative ones.

I would like to support Leigh in her courage and talent as a young NZ artist and steps toward defining a new voice in performance in NZ, one which is implicitly full of passion, humour, cleverness, new perspectives, questions, hungry and always wanting to discover more, despite what is 'expected' of her in her culture, whatever that is. I totally encourage this spirit in NZ artists, to push themselves and their art forms for audiences to feel and experience completely new things. To feel connected to themselves and each other through the telling of different perspectives. A voice which can, also quite overlooked by this review, among so many talents (dancing, writing), sing like an goddess.

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