23/05/2006 - 03/06/2006
Created by Lucy Wigmore
Directed by Ben Crowther
Lucy Wigmore develops her Toi Whakaari solo .
Theatre , Solo ,
Mismatch in pitch
Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 24th May 2006
Lucy Wigmore has been busy. Since her recent graduation from Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School, she’s rewritten and expanded what she conceived while studying, into a full play. Loosely based on the fairytale Cinderella, Salon 71 is a lively look at the bitchy behind-the-scenes carry on, during the build up to the National Champs.
Lucy plays 7 characters with varying degrees of success. Central character Cindy views life with wide, bright eyes, seeing only optimism and a happy end, as she strives to cut hair. Cindy’s been an apprentice for 7 years, but hasn’t yet given anyone the chop, thanks to the wicked salon owner, who is more interested in forwarding her daughter’s careers, though both have dubious talents.
Lucy has a lot of fun with this vixen, and is absolutely fabulous to watch in this sweetie-darling-Patsy-eat-your-heart-out role. Sisters Remmy and Tiffany don’t fare so well, always appearing together, with one being portrayed as a mannequin’s head on a stick. The device may have been stronger if the sisters had interacted with one another, perhaps the occasional ‘eye’ contact.
Margaret the droll old woman, (fairy-godmother figure), and Sam, the other down- trodden apprentice, both show Lucy’s versatility on stage. In particular Sam’s awkward attempt to sweep Cindy off her feet with broom in hand, is well delivered.
The final character in Lucy’s tale is James, an elite member of the hair profession, who is, of course, gay. While there are no surprises in Lucy’s performance, we hear some of her funniest dialogue through James.
I’m not sure Cindy’s reoccurring puppet show with the blow dryer and out-of-style curling tongs is strong enough on any level, to have made the final draft.
Director Ben Crowther guides Salon 71 well, keeping the pace and energy clean and polished throughout. Lighting design and operating by Sean Lynch were equally so.
Ben’s work on the transitions between characters is logical, smoothe, often enhancing moments in the performance. His staging of ‘calm’ is also a particular delight.
But the real challenge for Lucy as a writer is to adapt a light fairytale into a modern context and tell our heroine’s story, in a way that either fully commits to face, slapstick and larger than life dramatics, (pantomime) or attempts to keep the story real, honest and genuine.
Salon 71 doesn’t seem to be one or the other. Lucy’s script tends towards the former, yet some the characterisations were more the latter, making the sum of the parts neither here nor there.
Added to this, while there are some lovely moments, I knew exactly where Salon 71 was heading, once the characters and the premise had been introduced. As a result, I began to care less about both as the play moved towards the inevitable climax and well-known end.
Certainly there is an abundance of juicy material in the hair industry, but exposing it through Cinderella’s story becomes a limiting factor, especially when the pitch of the writing doesn’t quite match the pitch of the performances. But if you have a passion for hair and enjoy a giggle, you’ll enjoy a visit to Salon 71.
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