Review: Enemies Of Grooviness Eat Shit (Performing Lines)

Venue: The Red Rattler Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Oct 26 – Nov 5, 2020
Creator: Emma Maye Gibson
Cast: Betty Grumble
Images by Joseph Mayers

Theatre review
Understanding the power of love does not make one impervious to violence. To love thy neighbour, is a notion that should never have exceptions, but it seems our humanity has a habit of setting limits when it comes to generosity. The title of Betty Grumble’s latest outing, Enemies Of Grooviness Eat Shit feigns a sense of aggression, but its tongue-in-cheekness is evident. At the heart of Grumble’s show is a response to sexual violence, although it must be said that the artist resists constraints of any sort, leading to a nature of work that is stridently post-dramatic and non-linear, eluding categorisations at every juncture. The beauty of it is how one can bring interpretations of all kinds, no matter the viewer’s point of departure, and Grumble’s robust presence emanates a visceral power that rigorously provokes thought, even as our senses are consumed by her outrageous manoeuvres.

The character we come into contact with can be seen as a love warrior, oxymoronic but completely appropriate for our times of division. As North Americans march to their voting stations this week, we see a nation fighting for its survival, even though they may look more to be fighting one another. In truth, no fight is devoid of love. Humanity has been tied to death and destruction since the dawn of time, but all our transgressions are executed in the name of love, no matter how gruesome or savage. Even the Nazis say they kill for the love of their race. In Enemies Of Grooviness Eat Shit we confront the concept that hate seems always to be bred from love, yet if one is to be truly loving, ideas of revenge and justice will only turn painful and messy.

Grumble wrestles with herself and the world, as she tries to make things right. It is essentially a one-person show, but our star is constantly invoking others, most notably and with great veneration the artists Candy Royale and Annie Sprinkle, always naming collaborators and inspiring figures, as she takes charge of our communion. It is a deep understanding that for the world to be better, there can be no room for narcissism. We might only be able to speak one at a time, but efforts must find unity.

Grumble’s theatrical language prevents fissures resulting in us and them, so to talk about enemies, and to tell them to eat shit, always takes the attack back to the self. The violence if not turned inward, is certainly shared. In Grumble’s universe, Gaia and Karma are fundamental to how things are understood, and how things should be carried out. She offers a spiritual experience, but one that is devoid of naivety. If there are solutions, they can be found in guiding principles that the show teaches, not very much in words, but through the sensual and visual manifestations of what she puts her body through for our benefit.

Grumble may not have solved the world’s problems with her show, but she succeeds in introducing a moment of transcendence into each of our lives, and because to meet this artist is unequivocally unforgettable, the messages that she imparts will stick. Returning to spaces less sacred, less sublime, a part of us can sense the lingering presence of what had been witnessed, and we know that if everyone can get in touch with the Betty Grumble within, things will be all right.

Tiger Country (Little Spoon Theatre Co)

Little Spoon Theatre Co.Venue: Sidetrack Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Jul 3 – 13, 2013
Playwright: Jonathan Gavin
Director: Lara Kerestes
Actors: Leighton Cardno, Wade Doolan, Karli Evans, Lara Lightfoot, Matt Stewart

Theatre review
Advance promotional imagery for Tiger Country has been polished and seductive in spite of its “rough as guts” subject matter. Accordingly, visual design of this production is also exceptional. Most costume pieces are well thought out, helping to  materialise some of the most frightful and revolting characters on the Australian stage. Set design is innovative, efficient, and creates the appropriately sinister and vulgar mood in which all the action takes place. Lighting design is sophisticatedly intelligent, operated accurately and sensitively by the show’s crew. Design and stage management for this low budget production is truly incomparable.

Disappointingly, the performance feels under-rehearsed even though the actors do genuinely display a good level of commitment and discipline. Lara Lightfoot stands out with a certain interior authenticity that matches her character’s physical crudeness. In addition to the fragility inherent in the script, she brings strength and bravery that help create a fascinating and multi-dimensional role.

The pace of the entire piece feels monotonously slow, which is more fitting in its darker moments, but the show fails to buoy up in several key scenes that need to be contrastingly lighter or louder. Perhaps several edits should have been made for things to be more taut and tense. The plot tries to gravitate toward a central character, “Chuckles” who takes centre stage at the conclusion, but too many sub-plots and support characters dilute and distract from what would have been a more gratifying and direct narrative.