By Naomi Hamer
If I was only allowed one word to describe Concetta Caristo’s one woman show Loose it would be vulnerable. But luckily no one has asked me to only use one word so you don’t need to worry. The three main definitions for vulnerable in all the major dictionaries don’t quite feel like they capture what I want to say though. That is to say, Loose is an extremely personal and personable self portrait of a year in her life but I wouldn’t define vulnerable in this instance to mean “capable of being physically and emotionally wounded” but maybe that’s what we are opened up to being by witnessing it?
Loose tells the story of the year Concetta Caristo turned nineteen and packed her bags and moved to Perth with her mum and her sister. Of the year they changed their names and stopped contacting their friends and father. And the year Caristo promised herself that she would go on as many dates as she could and drink the most she ever had and be the loosest she’d ever been. No holds barred. The show begins with an acknowledgement of country from offstage before Concetta walks on stage as herself in the present moment. Dressed in a white t shirt, baby blue jeans and white sneakers and holding a yellow notebook Concetta Caristo introduces herself before exiting and re-entering, this time as a version of her nineteen year old self to applause. She’s changed her name to Sienna and peppered between each scene is music by Montaigne. Most prominently, instrumental snippets from the song Change which builds throughout the show following the rhythm of the performance.
Co-written with Hannah Pembroke, Loose is based on Caristo’s diary entries and facebook messages from her year in Perth including scenes which she acknowledges throughout the performance as verbatim. One such scene early on sees Caristo reading the cover letter for a cafe where she was applying for, to a room of giggles, as she describes how her experience on the school debating team has prepared her for a life of customer service. Whilst a one woman show, Concetta is supported with pre-recordings of characters like her mum, her sister, colleagues from her first job at Citybeach; her dates and her friends. I find myself laughing hysterically one minute and balling my eyes out the next - such is the power of Caristo’s performance and the truth that saw her at times burst into tears when looking ahead at what was to come next.
A raw and compelling performance, Loose sees Concetta Caristo not afraid to hold the script in front of her throughout the evening - adding to the authenticity and the personal memoir and chronicling aesthetic that Loose nails. There was a moment early on where our hero was missing a page from her script and was saved by Pembroke, who ran to her rescue with the missing page, the performance went on. She took a moment to catch her breath and then continued on as if nothing had happened, completely in control of her performance and barely missing a beat. I found Loose to be exactly that, loose - only the script knew exactly what was coming next but also equally restrained and open. Caristo speaks openly about being surrounded by domestic violence, this is why her family moved to Perth after all but we don’t go into detail, this isn’t trauma porn and this isn’t the completely defining moment of her life either. This is a nuanced portrait of a moment in Caristo’s life and whilst she makes it clear this is her story, statistics show one in three Australian women experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. One of the most moving moments saw her talk candidly about the day her, her mum and sister packed their bags and ran away to a womens’ shelter. In the quieter moments amongst the chaos she described speaking like old friends and asking her mum what had happened to her, as if she hadn’t been experiencing it herself all this time.
Whilst very much a work in progress, Loose proves to be a compelling and personal performance that will see you laughing and crying in equal measure and I don’t think I could recommend it highly enough.
Concetta Caristo - Loose runs from Wednesday 25 September - Sunday 29 September 2019 at The Factory Theatre as part of Sydney Fringe Festival.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.