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Review: Gaslight Me at the Gryphon Theatre

Review by Carly Fisher

Back in the Gryphon theatre for another fringe show, the stage is vibrantly cluttered with baggage, household items and other objects and is, as such, set for a matinee performance of Gaslight Me. Amongst this organised chaos of set and props stands solo performer Marea Colombo and on her cue, the story begins.

Colombo begins by explaining what the term gaslighting means and where it has come from. The rest of the hour is a well paced, full of laughs but also full of heart, monologue that chronicles but a few examples of the ways that women in society are gaslit and what that feels like. Much of the script is raw and honest - a conversation about body image and bra size in particular. Other parts of the script are laugh out loud funny - the lesson on conspiracy theories had me crying. Whatever Colombo is trying to achieve in any given moment, she does so with precision.

Because at the end of the day, irrespective of the strength of the writing - and it is good! - the truth is that we are here to support, to be guided by and to engage intensely with Colombo. And she is fantastic!

Comfortably the strongest performance I personally saw at the Fringe, Colombo oozes the confidence of a stage veteran whilst also seeming humble and potentially even unaware of just how good the show she has created is.

The show jumps a lot to cover a huge amount of ground in a tight 60 minute fringe set. Realistically, Colombo is so engaging that I could have happily watched a lot more of this piece. Whether the story is biographical or quasi-biographical or nothing of the sort, I could not confidently tell you. What I can tell you is that the skill with which these stories are told is clear, honest and fluent in delivery.

What Colombo and her co-writer/director, Bronwyn Wallace, have done so well, is to show and not tell. We are not TOLD how to feel, what to be gaslit by, when to feel outraged. These stories are perfectly universal and their charm and hilarity lie in the familiarity of the piece. Similarly, so too does the hurt. I imagine this piece will have heightened significance for women, but realistically, all would be able to see themselves and their own experiences in different times of this story.

There are so many takeaways from this show that I left wanting instantly to incorporate in my daily vernacular. The use of cutlery as metaphors for how intensely something can hurt - a characteristic one could say of being gaslit - was a stroke of genius. As it was said, instantly I knew that this comparison would be something that I would think about long after this show was over.

Gaslight Me will leave you laughing, thinking and most importantly caring. Colombo is gifted and it was a pleasure to watch her take to the NZ Fringe stage.

The show won a tour ready award at the Dunedin Fringe to be able to perform in Wellington.

Australian fringes, someone needs to see this act and bring it to our fringe circles. Our festivals will be the richer for supporting interesting, inspiring and well executed female driven work like Gaslight Me.

Image Supplied


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