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Review: Foreign Body at The Butterfly Club - Melb Fringe

Review by Lily Thomson

Candice D'Arcy in Foreign Body is a charming and disarming magnet of a performer on the stage. What makes Foreign Body so good is its honesty. This show is being told by the person who lived it in such an extraordinary way and delivers some harsh truths but somehow miraculously holds space for laughter and lightness for the audience along the way.

The performance is based on D'Arcy’s life growing up in Apartheid South Africa in the 80s and 90s. Once a “good girl” and strict follower of her parents' rules we learn that while in university she diverted from what was expected of her by her family and started to date “across colour lines.” At age 21 she became pregnant to a South African Indian man. This is something that was still a huge taboo in the late 90s and even early 2000’s in South Africa.

We follow D'Arcy’s learning and discovering more about racism through her relationships with her family and especially as a white mother to her brown daughter, and come to challenge what she was told to believe growing up by her family i.e. that people of an Anglo-European descent are superior to anything and everyone else. D'Arcy’s observations pricked my ears up especially when she compared her life in South Africa to living in Australia, and how unfortunately when it comes to racism the two cultures still have a lot of work to do to make sure everyone feels welcome and valued beyond their race.

Forreign Body weaves together elements of musical, satire, physical comedy, soulful acting and truth seamlessly. This work is like a Trojan Horse which houses a very serious conversation in generating comparisons between South Africa and Australian racist behaviours including relevance to refugees, and the difference between how the world reacts to refugees, “who have blue eyes and blonde hair”. This conversation is opened with Africa by Toto and has lots of pop song covers that are tweaked to fit the story of the play in hilarious and catchy ways. Forreign Body gloriously ebbs and flows from its comedic vivacity to its heartbreaking truthfulness in a matter of seconds.

The direction of this piece by Trudi Boatwright was simple and playful but also stunning in its starkness. With minimal set pieces and clever manipulation of the stage and lighting Boatwright has ensured that D'Arcy is always at the heart of her story. Swiftly changing between accents, characters and jumping in time, D'Arcy has a beautiful control and command of the stage. The Butterfly Club where this piece was performed is quite modest and intimate in size, yet D'Arcy believably and consistently expanded my imagination beyond the small performance space, taking me from continent to continent with her as we moved between her lives in Australia and South Africa.

Foreign Body is such an enlightening gem of a show, with delicious twists, turns and callbacks all the way through. Candice D'Arcy's engaging and charismatic presence combined with the paired back simplicity of Trudi Boatwright's direction is well-balanced and thought provoking in its examination of culture, racism, family dynamics and motherhood.

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