Review by Mikaela O’Sullivan
POLES: The Science of Magnetic Attraction by Tart Theatre Collective was performed in Big Fork Theatre Festival Hub in Fortitude Valley as part of Fringe Brisbane and it did not disappoint. This one woman show takes its audience on a journey of stripping, friendships, relationships and the struggles of growing up. This brutally honest comedy is unapologetically loud and high-energy.
In the one hour show, we are introduced to Cora, a 23 year old stripper who is still figuring out who she wants to be. Cora reflects on her weird and wonderful encounters with men when working as a dancer in a strip club and leaves nothing to the imagination. “Once my dad came in… ya fucked”. The plot is presented in an internal monologue style as Cora talks directly to the audience. This style proved effective to feel as though we are inside Cora’s head, not only seeing descriptive recollections of events in her head but also her true feelings about situations - positive or negative Cora reveals all “I’d definitely fuck me”. As the show goes on we see that Cora struggles to maintain relationships whether that be friendships or intimate relationships, this was presented in a comedic way which was fun to watch, bringing light and bubbliness to challenging topics “You were a bit of a cunt but so was I”.
This show had complex and current themes running throughout, with a specific emphasis on misogyny. Cora battles the judgement of men throughout and this is portrayed loudly throughout the script “Kale: why would you degrade yourself like that… Cora: that’s misogynistic…Kale: I’m a feminist”. It presents the idea that some men have double standards - supportive when one to one but ultimately embarrassed of a female who works in a strip club. Although Cora jokes about the matter it still shines light on today's society in which females worldwide are facing hate and abuse on a daily basis and the ongoing stigma surrounding the monetisation of the body “What if my friends knew you stripped”.Women being perceived as sexual objects was cleverly portrayed in a short scene in which a man presumes that because Cora is a stripper, she will take money to have sex with him “but you’re a stripper”, fast forward to the next morning and Cora tries to remember what happened the night before “I try to remember… it's blank… I should probably get the morning after pill”. While this was approached in a light hearted way, it is impossible not to see the darker side to this. It was refreshing to know this production did not shy away from showing this. Watching as a female myself, it felt both impactful and relatable.
Another common theme seen during the performance is the struggle of identity, Cora is at a crossroads and doesn’t know what to do with her life “I don’t want to rot in an office 9 to 5”. These moments are very relatable as everyone has or will face moments of doubt in their life or career path “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life”. Cora compares herself throughout to an old friend Lauren, who appears to have her life together. This furthered the idea that Cora was unsure about her own life choices and pushes her to get a regular job, which proves unsatisfactory for Cora “Cafés pay you fuck all”.
The setting of this show was extremely clear throughout with music and sound creating moody scenes and a progressive journey through the production. A beautiful colour palette of pinks, blues, reds, purples and white light throughout indicated switches between Cora’s inner voice and real time reflections of moments. The combination of pink light and distant sounds of night club music with a deep bass line proved successful to situate moments in the strip club, giving the sense that we are backstage with Cora as she gets ready to go out to dance for clients “everything comes and goes”. The lighting represents a passing of time and the rollercoaster of Cora’s life. Sound effects were used throughout to mimic a message alert, cat sounds, dating app notifications and even a voicemail recording. Recordings of friends and interactions Cora had with people were played over speakers to add to the idea that we are witnessing Cora’s recollections of events. The lighting and sound was simple yet it became a character of the show in its own right.
POLES: The Science of Magnetic Attraction is a comedic take on the struggles of being a woman in a man's World, life as a stripper and growing up believing we need to curate our life in our 20’s to succeed. From direction, to staging to acting, this piece of theatre is a must see for both men and women, offering many belly laughs and proclaiming to its audiences that no one has their life fully figured out and that is completely okay !