14/11/2023 - 25/11/2023
Playwright: Evangelina Telfar
Director: Fingal Pollock
Potentially Playing Productions
Naturally Curious comprises three short clown plays about queer animals with dance, drag, and musical interludes that emphasise queer joy and the excitement of discovering the rainbow. This play is the best nature documentary you’ve never seen. It’s a campy comedy that will hit people in the heart with its empathy, pride and joy.
14-25 November (no shows Sunday and Monday)
Full Price $25.00
Concession Price $20.00
Group 6+ $22.00
The Difference $40.00
Cast: Q Walker, Waitahi Aniwaniwa, Megan Connolly, Cassidy Kemp-Woffenden
Co-Producers: Evangelina Telfar and Nathan Mudge
Set & Props Design: Dannii Kellett
Lighting Design: Isadora Lao
Costume Design: Victoria Gridley
Costume Construction: Sarah Bell
Composition & Sound Design: Victoria Norgrove
Production Manager: Abby Lyons
Stage Manager: Ace Dalziel
Publicist: Austin Harrison
Clown , LGBTQIA+ , Physical , Theatre ,
Piques our curiosity, celebrates diversity and welcomes inclusion
Review by John Smythe 15th Nov 2023
BATS is abuzz with anticipation. The punters for the 6.30 show are from the queer community, or friends of or related to them, or naturally curious about what this show has to offer.
The BATS Stage preset for Naturally Curious – billed as “the best nature documentary you’ve never seen” – features four tall silver edges of large oblong mobile flats. A glimpse of landscapes on what I can see of the substantive faces makes me naturally curious about where we are headed.
Potentially Playing Productions has “a kaupapa focused on bringing communities together on and off the stage” and is “bridging the gap between art, science and politics”. It is absurd, of course, that such a gap is perceived to exist because all art is political and all life is science. But the modern world tends to put these things in silos then get tribal about them. Nature needs diversity for its very survival and thrives on such interdependence …
Which is not to say like-minded communities don’t need to form to offer mutual support. Writer Evangelina Telfar’s programme note credits the “many queer artists and queer folk who have helped me piece together these stories over the past two years” and adds: “Building queer communities has lifted the weight of systematic oppression and I believe we need more of this now.”
Having brought two seasons of Telfar’s Celestial Nobodies to BATS, Potentially Playing Productions is now “exploring biological science, queer theory, drag and clowning” in Naturally Curious, directed by Fingal Pollock with choreography by El Yule.
Performers Q Walker (they/them), Cassidy Kemp-Woffended (she/her), Waitaho McGee (they/them) and Megan Connolly (they/them) certainly bring a delicious clowning sensibility to the opening scene wherein they embody albatrosses then morph into penguins, dolphins, giraffes, orangutans, frogs, dogs, horses, elephants … There may have been sloths as well.
It is a beautifully executed sequence that does touch, in passing, on copulation as part of the natural cycle. What follows is not a blueprint for how the whole world should be, but an entertaining evocation and celebration of how it is for some.
Two mobile flats are turned to create a spectacular clifftop and seascape vista (Set and Props Design by Danni Kellett) where Q’s Mother Albatross tends her nest and the egg within it. The attentive voice of a male Narrator – James Cain (he/him) – purports to interpret her actions and those of two Male Albatrosses (Cassidy and Waitahi) and another Female Albatross (Megan) only to become baffled and upset at the atypical behaviour that ensues.
The non-verbal performances and communication of the sea birds become significantly more eloquent than what is spoken – not least when the females set about encouraging Waitahi’s Baby Albatross to take the leap off the cliff and fly.
In her crowd-pleasing drag persona of Wrasse Berry, Cassidy lip-syncs to her own rendition of a song composed by Evangelina, tracking a journey from being called distasteful to being faithful to her true self.
Now all four flats present a high country pastoral setting. Enhanced by Victoria Gridley’s superb costume designs, a sheep scene plays out with Q as Ovis, Waitihi as Dolly and Cassidy as Merino. Again it is initially non-verbal and here audience members may have varying interpretations of what is happening.
I take Dolly’s “Baa, maa” bleating for the attention of Ovis as indicating a ewe-lamb / mother-child relationship, where Ovis becomes more interested in interacting with Merino. Megan’s Femme Narrator is visibly lurking and trying to impose premeditated meaning on what is happening with such phrases as, “You know what comes next …” There is mother-daughter word-play – “Ewe are ewe” – and the revelation that sheep can be gay.
Femme Narrator finds her mojo by transforming into Cock of the Rock and delivering a revolutionary punk number that rejects all the ‘ologies’ to which they are expected to conform.
The next turn of the flats reveals a wondrous underwater setting within which the colourfully-clad performers drift or mover purposefully, finding their ways to be as they lip-sync to a rather more poetic dialogue soundtrack. Taking my cue from the incipient word-play, I see this as a literal representation of gender fluidity. A shell seems to double as a mirror and ‘crystal ball’ as a dreamed-of future is conjured up.
Into this peaceful idyll strides Megan’s drag king, Bear It All, oomphing up the finale – topped by the readily taken-up invitation for the audience to come on down and boogie with the cast.
Overall Naturally Curious – exquisitely produced, designed and performed – piques our natural desire to find meaning in what we are witnessing, to celebrate diversity and to feel included. Towards the end some sections are curious for me in that I can’t quite make sense of what’s happening – which could, I guess, be the point: let us each be the way we are in our ever-fluid lives even if we don’t quite get it.
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