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Review: ‘Minky Opens a Gallery’ at Chippen Street Theatre

By Helena Parker

‘Minky Opens a Gallery’ is a one-woman show that centres on the experiences of famous heiress Minky Westin as she attempts (and ultimately succeeds) to establish a successful art gallery in Sydney. Crafted in the image of Paris Hilton and other wealthy ‘it-girls’, the play itself deals with the many stereotypes pertaining to top 1% and the art world itself. Minky superficially embodies the spoilt rich girl persona; a hard partier, a Brazilian devotee and the ‘failure’ of her uber successful family, lead by her disinterested father and cosmetically enhanced mother. However her drive to make her art venture successful is a way for her to subvert these expectations and establish herself as a woman of worth and ultimately, win the respect and affection of her father.

Writer and director Joanna Weinberg quite explicitly seeks to criticise the effects of wealth in this play. Instead of Minky’s inheritance being observed as an opportunity granted to a sore few, it is a detriment and brings her only loneliness and isolation. The art world too is subjected to Weinberg’s critical eye, as money is seen as a means to beat the system; put a hefty price tag on an artwork and its worth, and prestige, increases. Minky, with her father’s business skills behind her, plays this game and in doing so becomes an unlikely champion for sidelined female artists. The play lightly touches on identity politics and, perhaps expectedly in this cultural climate, the #metoo movement, although this theme is developed very limitedly. Fleshing out these aspects of the script, such as the way in which Minky is treated by the press and the limitations for female artists in the art world, could have brought more depth to the production.

Minky’s character is brilliantly captured by costume designer Brigitte Thorn who decks Minky out in a sparkly cardigan and hot pink heels, both of which have an eye catching effect from the stage. Throughout the play Minky slowly peels off the layers until she is left in a black bustier and satin shorts, reflecting the final vulnerability of the character as she totally reveals herself. The sound design of the play also worked well with music choices by Madeleine Lapstun adding mood and humour to the piece. These worked in conjunction with lighting by Roderick van Gelder, whose design was particularly noticeable during the transition scenes with blue and pink lighting working to good effect.

However, despite the efforts of both designers, it was these transition scenes which lagged the most and were the main flaw of the production. Placed between scenes these choreographed transitions featured Minky ‘undercover’ in search for some guidance to being a gallerist, or stumbling home drunk from a night out. However these sequences were much too frequent and very long, and ultimately slowed down the pace of the production - breaking the tension. Heavy use of mime and physical performance made the the sequences a little clunky and uncomfortable to watch. It was a shame that many of the laughs aimed for in these transitions did not hit their marks. The production opened with a entertaining audio/visual sequence that replicated paparazzi photographs and gossip magazine front pages. It felt like a wasted opportunity however that Weinberg did not make use of this throughout the production. Perhaps using these during the transitions sequences could have upped their tempo.

The production’s main congratulations should be awarded to Jodine Holli Wolman whose capable performance as Minky was quite entertaining to watch. Holli Wolman showed skill in her ability to seamlessly transition between various characters and carry the one-woman show on her own. Although at times the script felt a little heavy-handed, Holli Wolman crafted an endearing and very likeable Minky, tottering around on her hot pink stiletto’s preparing to dominate the art world as a complete amateur. Better direction would have allowed the actor to find and land the laughs in the script and pick up the pace of the production as a whole.

‘Minky Opens a Gallery’ overall is an entertaining and enjoyable production. A little flawed, but you’ll find some heart in the struggling, glamorous Minky Westin.

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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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