Review: The Power of the Holy Spirit at The Flying Nun by Brand X

By Kipp Lee


Harriet Gillies’ The Power of the Holy Spirit, is branded as a TED Talk on acid. A performative lecture on mushrooms. Storytelling whilst popping nangs. And it delivers all that and more. 

The post-modern bastardisation of a lecture opens with Harriet Gillies standing alone, in a spotlight. From one pocket she produces a balloon, from the other, a cream charger. The crowd laughs in acknowledgement of what comes next. And that is the last time the audience can guess what will happen. The whole show is unpredictable, an unapologetic rollercoaster of surprise. The talk echoes a late-night/early morning drunken D and M (deep and meaningful conversation) or a muddled revelation of a particularly good high. It follows every tangent, explores every possibility and leaves no stone unturned. What could have been a moderately funny five minute anecdote, stretches into a hilarious hour of deconstructing the patriarchy, dissecting capitalism and the ways we try to find meaning in everything. Every point is backed up by a powerpoint slide, busy with stock images, graphs, charts, arrows and some very graphic gifs (compiled by Xanthe Dobbie to incredibly humorous effect).


Gilles’ dry wit and twisted intelligence is evident in every point. She uses Matthew Mcconaughey to explain the interlinked concepts of time and space; and connects the Bible to Mark Zuckerberg’s intellectual property empire. The book from which the show took its name (The Power of the Holy Spirit by George and Harriet Gillies) makes a brief appearance only to be quickly overshadowed by this Harriet Gillies with her voice lowered by the nitrous, pondering death, life and giving up.


The show slowly dissolves into a more disjointed, incoherent collection of events interspersed with more and more nangs, an ad break and some virtual sex -  but it all comes back to her singular point -the futility of existence. Gillies has you questioning the fundamentals of society with every slide. I’ve never seen an audience be so supportive one minute and so hesitant the next - and she thrives on it. She elicits every kind of reaction from the crowd - disgust, anger, joy, confusion, horniness. Gillies is unabased in her performance. Hilarious and thought-provoking. 

I can’t talk about so much of this performance without risking giving away some of the best bits. Every surprise, every limit you think she’ll hit, Gillies out does you, proving once again that she is a pioneer in her arts practice. I like to think I’ve seen my fair share of out-there performance art but Gillies puts it all to shame. She is unforgiving in the lengths she goes to make her art, her truth even, in this #posttruthbaby world. 


The Power of The Holy Spirit is on once more, Saturday November 16, 8pm. As the cloud of glitter settles, and I try and make sense of what just happened, I urge you not to miss out. This is a phenomenal work, that all involved should be very proud of creating.

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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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