Review By Lisa Lanzi
We have said “goodbye” to Adelaide Festival and Fringe now, a stupendously frantic but marvellous month of culture where all involved were holding their collective breaths that everyone would stay healthy and no shutdowns would emerge. And… art reigned supreme, folks were careful and we managed to go the distance.
EGG is a solo production that won ‘best dance’ award at the Fringe Weekly Awards in week three. Creator and performer Erin Fowler has premiered a work that is humble, funny and playful, thoughtful and poignant with serious underlying implications. Ms Fowler has achieved great things in Adelaide as an award-winning artist, maker and entrepreneur. Here, she ponders the question of how to balance an arts career, relationships, the possibility of procreation and future life choices when work is all consuming and your ova are aging (or as Facebook informs you: “dying off”).
With a dream creative team bringing EGG to fruition, the performance is a mix of dance, theatre, clowning and elemental puppetry backed by an eclectic musical collage of popular songs. From the first entrance, Fowler appears in white with long arm coverings resembling spermatozoa. By virtue of the performer’s sinuous upper body and arm movements to Enya’s “Sail Away” the two sperm battle to win the fertilization race as the audience laughs appreciatively. More 80s music follows with an underlying, occasional foetal heartbeat sound and we hear Ms Fowler speak of her own origin in 1987 which coincided with the invention of cat litter (“true story”) and the chart topping “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston. With accompanying comedic physicality we journey from that conception through the years of growing, learning, bodily changes, sex, love, heartbreak, career successes and international touring rudely interrupted by Covid 19.
With the onset of lockdown and the biological clock pushing Fowler to investigate the possibility of freezing her eggs we are treated to a hilarious interaction with ‘Alexa’. The recorded voice relentlessly quizzes, pressures and challenges the performer to consider her choices, actions and decisions. Using the vocals as a soundtrack, Fowlers use of props and physical clowning transports us through the urgency and stress a woman might experience as consideration of a ‘geriatric pregnancy at 36’ becomes a possibility - or not.
Part of the creative team is co-creator/director Hew Parham, a very experienced South Australian performer, clown and teacher, who has worked with Ms Fowler to discover her own clown persona, although, if you know Parham’s work, there were definitely recognizable devices and choices. Gesture, facial expression, body positioning and even non-verbal utterings combine to create an on stage character who conveys emotion to and elicits responses from the audience. As a trained dancer Fowler has exquisite control of her body but it is her presence in the moment and utter focus that allows the clowning to entrance the audience with sensitivity and compassion.
Simple, elegant staging that hid a multitude of well-used props and lighting effects was also a feature of EGG. Set in the black box venue that is Noel Lothian Hall, the all-white theme worked well. It was able to convey innocence, clinical cleanliness and was a canvas for black light use. Additionally, when colour did appear in clothing or props, it popped against the monochromatic setting.
At times, the comedic sections could have been shortened or the pace varied a little more. There were moments of pure dance movement that were transporting and perhaps some of those more ‘dancerly’ motifs could have been woven through the other scenes to assist overall cohesiveness. However, Ms Fowler’s performance is commanding and I felt the audience was definitely connected with the narrative and the performer. A final affirming and gentle song (The Power Is Here Now sung by Alexia Chellun) departed from the more pop themed music but sat well within the account of a woman continuing to find a way through the difficult choices. So no definitive answers here, but a comforting sense of allowing the right path to emerge.
EGG is an intensely personal story but one that I believe will resonate with many. The production also exemplifies the impact a gentle comedic approach can have, even when dealing with socially pertinent or possibly triggering topics.