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And of course, knowing your own secret may be drawn from the Audience’s Secret Confession Box at any moment builds the eager anticipation.
But improv is such a gamble when it depends on audience input.
Of course it can be brilliantly impactful, dealing with topics the patrons really care about, or at least have on their minds on the night. All too often, though, the average person is a bit of a disappointment.
The cheery little box for confessions looks promising, but proves a bit of a handicap.
The start of the working week may not be the best time for bright originality, but the emphasis of so many confessions on baser bodily functions, especially poos and farts, has a cumulative effect that is disheartening (see what I did there?), with penises and periods also coming in for more than their fair share of attention.
So it is unfortunate that one of the first ‘prepared beforehand’ skits is a Fartaholics meeting, a spoof on the AA played with confidence, but a bit queasy-making.
An interesting audience suggestion for a relationship, ‘Frenemies’, could have been an intriguing exploration of the darker side of women’s friendships à la Atwood, but disappointingly takes us back to blocked toilets and leaking menstrual cups.
The portrayal of feminists seems curiously dated, even for parody, as they condemn stay-at-home mums and yell about burning bras – and the men too, despite the odd ludicrous feminist-supporter, are reduced to comparing penis size. I miss Nell Guy’s earnest ‘Feminist Jesus’ created for Discharge.
Some sketches do shine for me, like the one about the taxi-mum who, while endlessly waiting, imagines wild affairs with sexy-voiced men on the car radio. French, naturally. I also enjoy the reversal of mother/daughter roles with the opportunity for delightfully absurd adolescent jargon delivered witheringly by the mum: “You are so fake-deep! So extra!!”
The actors are models of empathetic co-operation, giving a pleasant impression of enjoying each other’s performance. Georgie Sivier, who demonstrated impressive stage physicality in Her, is remarkably versatile and makes the most of her amazingly hypnotic blue eyes.
Debbie Klausen is the mistress of swift mood-shifts, and Lucy Darling can project a fragile vulnerability that has the audience yearning protectively over her.
Jo Ghastly appears an experienced practitioner, beautifully assured on stage and ever ready to help out other actors.
She is verbally fluent, doing her best with a fine flow of alliteration for the “purple potty of poo” she describes having to carry in public, along with a brief philosophical contemplation of “the thrill of leaving human remains in atypical places”, yet still, there we are back with poo and scatological humour.
Dunedin Fringe is fortunate to host such a plethora of talent from Christchurch. The cast of Peppered Unicorn have just demonstrated their improvisational skill in the more coherent Strangers – by Impulse Theatre that immediately preceded this show, and which I found to offer sharp and funny insight into our bizarre attempts to connect with others.
I really wanted to enjoy Pretty Little Confessions more than I did, as the four women are excellent performers, each of them with her own distinct brand of charm too, that had me desperate for them to succeed.
They are quick-thinking, lively and courageous improvisers, and are sure to come up with material worthy of their talent, perhaps even at the very next gig.
With such great guides, we are ready to plunge into deeper waters than the toilet bowl.
Pretty Little Confessions
Dee's Cafe and Venue, Dunedin
Until 14 Mar 2018
Reviewed by Terry MacTavish, originally published by Theatreview