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Review: Femme at the Breakout Space, The Mill

By Lisa Lanzi

Erin Fowler is well-known in Adelaide as a formidable force in the arts; a former professional model, a dancer and singer, a business woman and a deep thinker. She is the creator of FEMME and is a solo performer but with a support team of note: Callan Fleming, dramaturg; Mario Spate, sound design; Chris Petridis, lighting design; Simone Romaniuk, design consultant; Amber Cronin, set realization; Chris Hertzfeld, photography and film; Kyra Herzfeld, marketing consultant.

The audience enters the dark, intimate space to seat themselves on either side of a narrow performance space soon to become a catwalk, a play-space, a boardroom, a dream-scape. At one end of this dark alleyway is a soft, voluminous tent lit gently with warm light, a symbol of both backstage and safety / recovery. The minimal performance space is littered with pieces of red, glittery foil and an open ladder frames the other end along with LED strip lights which will illuminate with bright energy but also cast more foreboding tones.

The work begins with a sense of play and wonder, a little girl’s dress-up fantasy while music builds to a loud and pulsing beat reminiscent of high-fashion designer parades. We are taken then to moments of tenderness and exploration, connection through touch with the audience, humour and raw sexuality, including the prowl of the model on display, complete with revealing attire. Throughout we are treated to the fluid and breathtaking movement that Erin Fowler so effortlessly executes. Added to this is the slight sense of danger, being as we are in such close proximity to this dynamic performer. This closeness to the action also places the audience into the varying roles of co-conspirator, support network, voyeur and witness.

There is marvellous juxtaposition of music, recorded text and quotes from various anonymous people and Erin’s voice live on stage. The soundtrack is important to the work as we hear comments (some disturbing) from women and men about being female and male in a patriarchal, segregated and judgemental world. These texts make reference to gender-specific sexuality and opinion, to women in business, to ageing, to roles in society and more. The humorous tone is contrasted in turn with text and accompanying action on stage that provokes, saddens, angers and is all the more powerful for the proximity to the earlier light humour.

Please go to see this work. Exhort your friends to go, particularly your male friends, then TALK to each other about the quandaries raised in FEMME. Only by engaging in compassionate dialogue can we hope to navigate the sexual political landscape into the future. I wish this production a long life with its considered, unfolding narrative, the subjects broached, the thoughts provoked and the exquisite performance that Erin Fowler gifts us.

Photos Supplied by Lisa Lanzi

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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