09/03/2018 - 11/03/2018
20/03/2018 - 24/03/2018
monkeyhorse is a new performance company formed by Wellington actor Claire Waldron and choreographer/director Chris Jannides.
Stupid Bitch is their first production inspired by the familiar phrase of the same name. It’s a comedy with dark edges that is predominantly a solo show featuring multiple female characters who might at times be called sb’s by others.
Sad, funny, poignant, original, this debut performance by monkeyhorse tests the collaborative potential of its creators, who, between them, draw on a wealth of experience in the performing arts.
Claire, who performs the central role in Stupid Bitch, has featured in a number of productions recently at Circa. Chris is best known as the founder many years ago of the dance company Limbs. Setting up monkeyhorse allows them to investigate new performance interests and refine their skills as writers and theatre makers.
DUNEDIN FRINGE 2018
King Edward Court
9 – 11 March 2018
Ticket price range $15, concession $10
Booking details http://www.dunedinfringe.nz/
NZ FRINGE 2018
Tarrant Dance Studios, 125 Cuba Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Tuesday 20 – Saturday 24 March 2018
Concession $10 | Fringe Addict $11
Theatre , Comedy ,
An invitation and a provocation
Review by John Smythe 21st Mar 2018
My first impulse, based entirely on the title, was to avoid this show. Only when I realised the new performance company ‘monkeyhorse’ is actor Claire Waldron and choreographer/director Chris Jannides, did I feel reassured my fears of a misogynist diatribe were undoubtedly unfounded.
Let’s hope those who have been at the receiving end of that toxic phrase are drawn by the title. As for those given to uttering it, please do yourselves a favour and open yourselves to these highly creative depictions of “female characters who might at times be called sb’s by others”.
The black paper covering the Tarrant Dance Studio windows high above Cuba Mall are adorned with the words: “Stupid bitch Wants a Puppy”. Various bits of white paper litter the wide performance space, along with a length of brown paper, an intriguing chair-clothes-&-boots art work, a laptop, a tiny music box mechanism and a glass-domed ornament enclosing a ballroom dancing couple – atop another music box, I’m guessing.
Chris and Claire are welcoming and chatty as the audience settles. Chris has positioned himself front-centre of the seating rows with a laptop and data-show projector. All is relaxed yet there is a quiet air of anticipation.
Clad in white paper coveralls, Claire‘s first character, Barbara Briddock (not to be confused with the author of The Smart Parents Guide), comes over as tough and resourceful as she copes robustly with ‘life after Doug’, who has taken off with young Tracey from the local amateur dramatic society. Her ‘activities’ are many; there’s no mention of a job nor any quest for a rebound relationship. And it emerges Doug’s departure is not the only ‘change of life’ Barbara is dealing with.
You’d have to be very insensitive not to realise she feels a void beneath the bravado. The lifestyle and value systems revealed speak volumes and the circumstances in which Doug utters the titular phrase are neatly counterpointed with her recounting of how he proposed. The lifecycle of this particular relationship embodies aspects almost anyone could relate to at some level.
The next woman, unnamed, is quite the opposite: timid and uncertain, as she seeks guidance and affirmation from a quietly patient Chris as to how she might develop her theatre show – with paper. The awkward gaucheness of her ideas is mesmerising then suddenly alarming. Cats come into it … but Chris isn’t sure, so her work-in-progress PowerPoint gets an airing … Then she resorts to jokes, the nature of which gives a clue to her manner of being.
Number three is a mess: the woman, that is. Stressed, feeling hunted, she is trying to escape from what may have started as a sexually adventurous relationship but has now turned dangerous and abusive. What we manage to catch from her welter of words and swirling emotions validates her terror. And yet … What confronts us here is the inescapability of emotional addiction.
The fourth portrayal is the most theatrically abstract response to the title phrase. Here the face-masked woman is at the mercy of persistent media onslaughts: how to make her parts more desirable; YouTube vlogging about paradigm shifts that seems to descend into emotion porn, juxtaposed with Kylie Minogue doing ‘The Locomotion’ (in 1988) while Claire ‘comments’ facially through a distorting plastic slab.
Finally the focus turns to the romantic trope of the ballroom-dancing couple under glass, as the tinkling music plays. Does this represent the desired alternative or the source of our unrealistic expectations? It’s a good question to leave us with.
After-show chat reveals this work is ‘in development’ and has evolved from participation in a John Bolton workshop. And audience members are offered the opportunity to post their own ‘Stupid Bitch’ stories on http://monkeyhorse-performance.strikingly.com/
Would Stupid Bitch be improved by becoming hermetically sealed in a more sophisticated production package? I don’t think so. The openly playful and experimental nature of the performance reflects the idea that everyone’s life is always a work in progress. And the subjective realities being explored and shared are not offered to be objectified as ‘art’ but as an invitation to empathise and a provocation to evaluate the way we judge others, and ourselves.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Skilled, new and fresh
Review by Ina Kinski 10th Mar 2018
Stupid Bitch is for you if you are a woman, have a girlfriend, or have a mother. Don’t miss this show if you enjoy being awed by a skillful performance.
Written and performed by Claire Waldron, accomplished Wellington-based actor, and directed by partner-in-crime Chris Jannides, Stupid Bitch brings to life a collage of portraits using an art installation-styled stage. The characters are edgy, the use of props is clever and effective, and the storytelling is outstanding.
Have your heart warmed by the freshly divorced go-getter, your spine chilled by the girlfriend running for her life, and roll your eyes at the dramatic YouTuber.
In times where female-focused stories finally have our combined attention, this performance is a stark reminder of not just how different we all are, but also how changing circumstances demand transitioning of the self.
Stupid Bitch is Fringe at its best: skilled art performers with huge depth of experience and a desire to do their very own thing, creating something new and fresh.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer