Please Don’t Feed the Models

BATS Theatre, Wellington

06/03/2006 - 11/03/2006

Production Details

Written and co-devised by Sara Standring & Vanessa Byrnes
Directed by Vanessa Byrnes

Former internationl model turned actor, Sara Standring, takes us on a fabulous romp through the world of fashion via a Tokyo model apartment.

Performed by Sara Standring

Theatre , Solo ,

1 hr

International potential

Review by John Smythe 09th Mar 2006

As a showcase performance piece, expanded from last year’s Go Solo season at Toi Whakaari (where graduating students presented their largely self-devised shows), Please Don’t Feed the Models does a great job of launching Sara Standring on to the professional stage as an actress. Before she went to drama school she strutted the catwalks and graced the covers and inside pages of fashion magazines as an international model.

Please Don’t Feed the Models captures the experience of a 16 year-old Kiwi model over three days in Tokyo, where she is renamed Kitty because Sara becomes lost in translation to Salla (I think – the Japanese accent is laid on thick for maximum ‘hirality’ at the expense of ‘crality’ at key moments). Her ruthlessly efficient minder, Yoshiko, and video-messaging dipsomaniacal employer, Reiko, front for an industry that treats her and her colleagues as objects.

They are caged animals in a global media zoo, if you like, under constant pressure not to put on excess weight. Hence the title. In characterising the girls, Standring simultaneously displays her versatility in accents and body language, and shows how each one goes about surviving – or not – this deeply superficial environment.

April, tipped to be America’s next big supermodel, seeks tranquillity through New Age means but only increases her anxiety levels in the process, although her high-camp, quip-witted, party-animal consort Richard ("The bitch has arrived!") is clearly some kind of tonic. Irish Shelagh – "Face of an angel, mouth of a sewer" – gets her jollies from victimising April and generally bucking the system.

Albanian Monika (also heavily accented), nick-named Vodka-tits by Shelagh, remains largely alienated and compulsively phones home in tears. English Danni sees this gig as a chance to save good money and secure the wherewithal to buy a house back home, except this is her ninth time here because she spends the rest of the year on a beach in Thailand with her boyfriend, who sends her soft toys from time to time to show how much he loves her …

As the three days pass, we get to know – along with Kitty – each girl a little better, developing an empathetic understanding and growing affection for the models at least, which is fine as far as it goes. The Japanese characters are hoist by their own petards and remain objectified ciphers. But the one person we don’t get to know at all is Sara/Kitty. While I appreciate the craftiness of making her present only through the way the others relate to her, she remains a non-entity. Whether she becomes an active character in her own right or remains reactively manifest only, her journey through this experience needs to be part of the story now. How does it change her? In what way is she different at the end of the play than she was at the beginning? (Perhaps the rationale is that she changes, in her understanding and awareness, in the same way we do – which may be valid.)

As it stands, what book-ends the story is Shelagh’s announcement, near the beginning, that she is to be sent home, and her departure at the end. Not much of an engaging story structure there. Although it does just get away with being a series of character studies in this longer form, Please Don’t Feed the Models would be greatly improved if it located and locked onto a core theme that allowed it to resonate beyond its own specific circumstances. This should lead to a strong narrative through-line that would give the material more shape and purpose, the audience more satisfaction and the show a longer life.

Given the sold-out popularity of the Bats season (extra performance 6pm Saturday, by popular demand), it clearly has the potential to tour international festivals and fashion weeks. For my money, though, building on its existing strengths to make it a play as well as a showcase would materially benefit everyone involved.


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A little too thin

Review by Lynn Freeman 08th Mar 2006

Coffee, yes, but no biscuits for the stars of Please Don’t Feed the Models.

The lives of international models behind the makeup and off the catwalk are affectionately portrayed by someone who knows, former model and Toi Whakaari graduate, Sara Standring. There’s the stroppy Irish girl (face of an angel, mouth of a sewer), the airy-fairy American, the vodka drinking Russian, the drug addicted Brit and into this apartment of models in Japan comes a 16 year old Kiwi "Kitty" who’s told she has to lose 10 centimetres off her hips in one week.

The Japanese minders remind the girls they "can never be too rich or too thin". The storyline though is just a little too thin to sustain an hour – this play having been expanded from Standring’s excellent 20-minute end of year solo show. This is no reflection on Standring’s performance, which certainly displays her versatility as an actor and with accents.


John Smythe March 14th, 2006

Cheers Sara, your response is inspiring. We're all works in progress, eh.

Sara Standring March 11th, 2006

Hey John! It's Sara Standring here I was told not to read your review and of course I did straight away! After reading it I was not at all perturbed rather appreciative I think that your comments are fantastic I completely went- Yeah thats absolutely right everything you said rang true and I have had the same qestions myself at one time or the other. Thankyou for coming I appreciate it in what must be a very busy time for you. Great food for thought or not if ya need to lose a few centimetres- te he he. I reallly want to expand and re -work the piece and hopefully have a bigger brighter show next time you see it. Sincere thanks Sara Standring Love You Mean It!

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Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 07th Mar 2006

In what must be one of the most stylish and sophisticated set and design concepts of this years Fringe Festival, Please Don’t Feed The Models, the current mid-evening show at BATS, is also one of the most stylishly performed productions.

Based on her experiences of being a model for 12 years, performer and co-writer Sara Standing introduces the audience to six girls from America, England, Ireland and Russia who, along with herself as a kiwi model, are on an assignment in Japan. 

But although the kiwi model is at the centre of the piece, and although it’s her that the others talk to and confide in, she never speaks nor narrates, which makes the production concept of this show unique and unlike the other solo shows in this years Fringe Festival. And although at times the accents of some of the characters is too strong for clear audible articulation of the witty and very telling dialogue, the performance of Standing in conveying the six characters is excellent. 

Using the stage space to great advantage, she’s continually on the move in a very physical, animated performance, her facial expressions in particular conveying as much as the words, making this a high note to end Fringe 06 on.


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