My Complicated Relationship with Laurie Anderson

Bluenote Bar, Wellington

02/03/2007 - 04/03/2007

NZ Fringe Festival 2007

Production Details

Created and performed by Charlotte Everett
Directed by Patrick Graham

Brains in aquariums, resin sheep, heated phone conversations with an American idiot – a solo musical comedy that’s sharp as a knife; hard as a diamond…

Something truly unusual and NOT to be missed! Book your tickets now to see the world premiere of a show that really is in a league of its own.

Created and performed by Charlotte Everett, My Complicated Relationship with Laurie Anderson is a cabaret-style drama about what can happen when a fan decides to do a tribute show – is Charly really an obsessed fan? You decide!

Everett takes her audience on a roller-coaster journey through cult performance artist Laurie Anderson’s work, as well as her own – all with the help and guidance of Gareth, her aquarium-dwelling brain…

Featuring new live music composed by Robbie Ellis, Charly sings, dances and story-tells her way through Saddam Hussein’s hanging, controversial Vice Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon (ex Victoria) putting live lambs into the freezer, and even Buddhist philosophy.

The show is directed by Patrick Graham, no stranger to the Wellington Fringe Festival and an up-and-coming writer and director of critical acclaim.  

Theatre , Solo ,

1 hr 10 mins, no interval


Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 06th Mar 2007

Charlotte Everett’s solo show My Complicated Relationship with Laurie Anderson at the Bluenote Bar also goes the way of Life’s a Drag and many other shows written by the performer in that they end up writing for themselves far more than the audience.  As a consequence the shows become self indulgent, over exaggerated and gratuitous: a major fault of Everett’s piece. 

It initially began as a tribute to the music of Laurie Anderson, a female Leonard Cohen of the 1980’s who became famous for the way she incorporated technology into her music, but such was Everett’s difficulty in getting the rights to perform her music, having to continually work through Anderson’s agent, that she decided to write about this, hence the title of her show. 

Everett also uses the show as a "journey of self discovery" and so discusses everything from Buddhism, to sheep, to her brain, yet nothing ever really transpires about her complicated relationship with Anderson.  Nor do we ever get to hear any of Anderson’s unique style of musicianship making this yet another disappointing Fringe Festival production.


Charlotte Everett March 8th, 2007

Thank you for your response Mr Coleman. The songs I performed however were not "snippets". Here With You, Pieces & Parts and One Beautiful Evening were all played in their complete entirety. A number of Laurie's fans came to see my production and are equally as confused as I am concerning how Laurie is a female Leonard Cohen of the 1980s. Perhaps I am unfamiliar with his political work, but I am still bewildered as to why one would compare a multimedia performance artist with a folk singer. They seem to be different genres. I am glad though that you managed to see Laurie perform when she was over here. And I also really appreciate your clarification concerning aspects of your review that I may have misunderstood. But concerning her musicianship in terms of "style" - I incorporated as much multimedia into the performance as possible with limited funding of $500 to cover all production costs including marketing and travel. Projected images, a smoke machine, recordings and live keyboard music was as good as I could manage for a Fringe show in a different city. If you have seen Laurie's Home of the Brave then you may have noticed that she too had restrictions on the technology she could use - although obviously she was working on something much larger-scale. Laurie is also more than a musician - she has a number of what are best described as "monologues" which were performed cabaret-style without the assistance of multimedia. In terms of my speaking over recordings, Laurie often speaks over her own music. But ultimately the show is about an obsessed fan, who like many fans, tries to pay homage to the object of their affections and gets it fatally wrong. The show was not supposed to be a showcase of Anderson's work as such. Again, thank you for clearing those points up for me. I do appreciate it. And I do appreciate your thoughts and feedback. I just wanted to be clear concerning the songs and licence. Thank you again, Charlotte Everett.

Ewen Coleman March 8th, 2007

Unfortunately Ms Everett has misconstrued my comment, which, on reflection, is somewhat ambiguous in its brevity and doesn't really convey my thoughts properly. Yes she did play all those Laurie Anderson songs, albeit very brief snippets, but then I didn't say she didn't. My comment was referring Laurie Anderson's distinctive style of music and the fact that the pieces presented in the show were so short or were talked over that we never got to hear the uniqueness of Anderson's style musicianship. Also, I have discs of both Leonard Cohen and Laurie Anderson ( and saw her perform live here in Wellington at an International Arts Festival some years back) and he is just as much a political singer as he is romantic. I hope this goes some way to clarifying my comments.

Charlotte Everett March 7th, 2007

I have emailed the arts editor at the Dominion Post to complain about one defamatory statement in this review, which is that none of Laurie Anderson's musicianship was used. I performed 3 of Anderson's songs (Here With You, Pieces & Parts, and One Beautiful Evening), as well as using recordings of her songs O Superman, Born Never Asked, From the Air, Walking & Falling and Babydoll. I also was granted the rights to perform these songs (the review implies otherwise) and would like to emphasise the fact that the play was a work of fiction - it was not "real" in any capacity. The character "Charly" is not "me", so the assumption that the brain is my own is incorrect. Furthermore, the complicated relationship with Laurie Anderson is that Charly is an obsessed fan, therefore there is no relationship. The relationship with Anderson comes through in the phone conversations with Anderson's agent, the relationship with Anderson's work itself and also in the presence of the Laurie Anderson puppet. These points are all noted in the programme - including which songs of Anderson's I performed - so I am incredibly disappointed that the reviewer clearly did not bother reading the programme to acknowledge these simple facts. If he did not like the play or my performance then that is of course fine, but the comments he has made concerning my lack of using Anderson's work is hysterically inaccurate. I also wonder how Laurie Anderson is the female Leonard Cohen of the 1980s, considering that Leonard Cohen was a folk singer who sung love songs and Laurie Anderson was a performance artist who used a lot of multimedia and whose work was riddled with political themes. If anyone has any insight into the comparison then I would be most interested. I appreciate the reviewer giving up his time to see the show, I only wish he had done a bit of research into who Laurie Anderson is and what work is hers before he made such bold statements.

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Deconstructed reconstruction

Review by John Smythe 03rd Mar 2007

The programme note for My Complicated Relationship with Laurie Anderson tells how its creator, Charlotte Everett, determined to mount a tribute show to American multi-media performance artist Laurie Anderson as part of her final year’s work towards her Masters degree at the University of Auckland. "I submitted a proposal to Anderson," she writes, "and so the nightmare began!"

The "nightmare" turns out to have been the need to get her show together in the face of non-communication from Anderson’s manager. But the show that ensues, based on this experience, includes nothing of that looming deadline and downward pressure, so the reconstruction-cum-deconstruction of ‘Charly’s experience – delivered somewhat in the style of Laurie Anderson but with nothing like the multimedia technology she had at her disposal – does not reach the level of nightmare.

In the run up to the show proper, a stressed-out Everett yells and snaps at her stage manager / front of house person / publicist Josie Dodds and the rest of her crew. For a moment this is diverting but, once you realise it is ‘pretend’ and part of the show, it soon becomes tiresome.

A phone call from Charly’s depressed brain, Gareth, which resides in a small fish tank and is voiced live by the director and multimedia operator Patrick Graham, opens the show and such calls recur throughout.

There is a stylised birth sequence, Anderson songs (they did get the rights) and original songs (music Robbie Ellis; lyrics Charlotte Everett), a flute rendition of something Anderson played on a violin, something about Cowboys and Indians involving Ken dolls …

The "didactic comedy" content includes a rave about the hypocrisy inherent in the practice of most religions with particular reference to the execution of Saddam, a musing about singers who become politicians and vice versa, a critique of Vice Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon sung in floral gumboots and an American accent (?!) …

A chat with a glove puppet Laurie (literally a white glove with red lips) brings cogent advice to Charly: "Quit trying so damn hard. Just be yourself. Be a storyteller." The personal story that follows is something of a modern parable. I’d have preferred it unembellished with electronica music, not least because it gives the impression Charly is still trying to be like Laurie, but it does serve to ground the disparate elements.

The too-late call from Laurie’s manger leads to the finale: a Laurie Anderson bed time song for Gareth.  

In the end I come away thinking Charlotte Everett has a good singing voice and is a talented flautist, she and her team make a good fist of putting a show together, there are some wacky ideas and clever use of props, the pretence that they are a dysfunctional and ill-prepared team justifies the lack of production values theoretically … But nothing has really got to me at any level.

Despite the changes My Complicated Relationship with Laurie Anderson has undergone since its workshop style performance in 2005, it still looks like a show that only exists because someone had to put on a show.

[One more Fringe show to go. Someone observed the other day that as the Fringe has progressed I have become harder to please. He’s right. But while few will have seen as much as I have, those ‘addicts’ who have made their paid-for choices and missed out on other shows are just as likely to get impatient with dross – are they not?]
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Charlotte Everett March 6th, 2007

Hi John, I just wanted to thank you for reviewing my show, and for giving a constructive insight. Best wishes, Charlotte.

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