Review: New Balance (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Apr 19 – 23, 2023
Creators: Christopher Bryant, Emma Palackic
Cast: Christopher Bryant
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
In the one-person show New Balance, Christopher Bryant declares himself queer and disabled, wearing those labels like one would badges of honour, when returning from fighting for causes of immense consequence. In polite society, those labels of identification are of course discouraged from prominent enunciation, because the cis-white-straight-ableist hegemony would always prefer to deny, that their prejudices are in fact fundamental, to how each of our lives is structured. They want us to subscribe to the convenient notion that all people are the same, in order that so many of the injustices they steadfastly establish and perpetuate, are allowed to operate in stealth.

Their gaslighting, and our cultural delusion, is addressed by New Balance, a brilliantly engrossing 60-minute show created by Bryant and Emma Palackic, to firmly renounce that collective refusal to acknowledge the gremlins in our system, put in place to privilege the few, but that are perversely upheld by the masses. The show asserts otherness from a location that is both queer and disabled, two conceptions of experiences that seem at face value, to be distinct and separate, but through the articulation of a performer who inhabits both identities simultaneously, it becomes clear that the politics of otherness, only ever functions one way. The narrative of routine ostracism, and of persistent exclusion, is powerfully represented by Bryant’s unvarnished performance style, devoid of pretension and of formalist technique, existing only in the space of theatre, to speak intimately and persuasively from human to human.

Bryant and Palackic’s text, which includes first-person contributions from Jamila Main, Rebekah Robertson, Anthony Severino and Jacqueline Tooley, is a deeply evocative expression of life on the outside. Video projections by Justin Gardam, along with sound recordings of confessional voices, offer meaningful enhancement to all the sensitive divulgements, that are surprising yet familiar, in their honest encapsulation of a diverse humanity. Lighting design by Chris Milburn add sensuality to proceedings, to make us feel a certain palpable corporeality, that keeps these thoughts being so staunchly shared on stage, to link resolutely to our own bodies.

New Balance seeks to dismantle that which has long been instituted as pristine, and reconstitutes that which is deemed immaculate, to refute the many exclusionary tendencies of how we organise our lives. It reminds us fervently, that much as we experience challenges differently, our humanity can only ever be uniformly perfect.

Review: Collapsible (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Mar 9 – Apr 1, 2023
Writer: Margaret Perry
Directors: Zoë Hollyoak, Morgan Moroney
Cast: Janet Anderson
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review
Esther is asking everyone she knows, for a word to describe herself. In Margaret Perry’s Collapsible, we see the strange things a person does, when deep in the process of job hunting. Esther contorts her personality into different forms, in hopes that she may be perceived as a right fit, for one of the many organisations that she is interviewing with. We observe someone trying to be all things to all people, and ultimately becoming an empty vessel, knowing nothing about herself, from trying to appeal to an economy determined to reward mediocrity and that encourages one to shed their values and principles.

There is an abundance of abstraction in Perry’s writing, which Zoë Hollyoak and Morgan Moroney use as directors of the piece, to deliver something memorable for its rich visuals. Although unpredictable and exciting with its sense of theatricality, the show can feel somewhat hollow, which admittedly is an accurate representation of Esther’s essence. A more intense depiction of anxiety and unease, that accompanies the existential angst being reflected, could perhaps make the experience more worthwhile.

Set and costumes by Hayden Relf offer surprising solutions, that make for a quirky staging that sustains our attention, in what could easily have been a very understated one-woman show. Video projections by Daniel Herten and Moroney, are ambitiously rendered but offer little other than a demonstration of an experimental spirit. Lights, also by Moroney, are a more satisfying aspect of the production, delivering great texture and atmospheric transformations. Herten’s sound design is wonderfully lively, but could benefit from a greater sensitivity in approach.

Actor Janet Anderson is thoroughly captivating as Esther, with an impressive degree of control over the challenging material being explored. Emotional aspects of Anderson’s performance could be more delicately managed, but her vigorous physicality keeps us engrossed.

It is not only for financial reasons that Esther loses herself, but also the pressures of social conformity, that pushes her to twist her soul, into something that prioritises external expectations. We are not certain if Esther has forgotten herself, or if she had indeed ever truly known herself. The hard part of being, is to arrive at a state of knowing the self. To navigate life only in bewilderment, is unquestionably tragic. /

Review: Lose To Win (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Oct 18 – 29, 2022
Writer: Mandela Mathia
Director: Jessica Arthur
Cast: Mandela Mathia
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review
Lose to Win is an autobiographical one-man show, in the most classic sense. Mandela Mathia is on stage  alone, for just over an hour, performing a piece written by himself, to tell the story of his life hitherto. From his birth in South Sudan, and his hazardous days in Egypt as an adolescent orphan, to his early years as a refugee in Australia, Mathia provides first-hand accounts of an eventful journey, that sees him travel great distances for safe harbour.

It is a sensitively constructed work, slightly too polite in approach perhaps, but certainly rich with what it conveys. Lose to Win wishes to function as a bridge, to create understanding for immigrant communities, in an Australia that is often unkind to people who are not white. Mathia might come across inevitably as the model citizen typical of presentations like these, but under the direction of Jessica Arthur, there is plentiful humour and charm to encounter, in a production careful to sidestep traumatic tropes, in favour of something altogether more joyful and modern.

Helping to provide visual variety, is Kate Baldwin’s imaginative lighting design, surprising us with colours and angles that transform a simple stage, into cleverly configurated performance spaces. Sounds by Rose Mulcare are integral in helping us navigate the swiftly changing moods of the show, effortlessly sustaining our attention throughout.

Mathia’s unmistakeable sincerity is at the centre of Lose to Win, urging a connection where we have become used to fracture and alienation. Disunity benefits the rich and powerful. Fear has become a mechanism that can be exploited for private gains, that will only exacerbate the rifts between us. We need to come to a place, where our neighbours’ successes are not considered to be taking anything anyway from us. We are abundant, we only need to embrace generosity.

Review: The Great Australian Play (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Sep 15 – Oct 8, 2022
Writer: Kim Ho
Director: Saro Lusty-Cavallari
Cast: Lucinda Howes, Kurt Pimblett, Rachel Seeto, Idam Sondhi, Mây Trần
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review

A group of young Australians are in a room, trying to write a television series, but obstacles abound preventing them from getting anywhere meaningful with their project. Kim Ho’s The Great Australian Play is a very contemporary look, at our culture and zeitgeist, a work that serves perhaps as documentation of how we are changing as a nation. The bad news, is that we consistently fail to find consensus, in so much of what we do; good news however, is that the weakening of a previous hegemony, means that authority is being disseminated.

Unable to agree on anything, the writers struggle to meet their deadline. The Great Australian Play is not a case of writer’s block, but a rendering of the commercial, social and artistic factors, that many of today’s creatives feel they are beholden to. Director Saro Lusty-Cavallari uses this conceit, to create a show about conflict and the elusiveness of resolution. It is a satire about the creative process, as it stands this point in time, as we try to make sense of the mechanics of power on this colonised land, and try to effect benevolent changes to it.

The Great Australian Play has a tendency to feel overly complicated, especially when it ventures into surreal and symbolic territory. Its concepts are strong, but execution never quite reaches its aesthetic ideals. Set and costumes by Kate Beere, are able to convey the mundanity of the writers’ room experience, but lacks the versatility and idiosyncrasy required, to aid in the play’s many amorphous and quirky tendencies. Kate Baldwin’s lights respond better to that need for a more theatrical approach, although they can feel at times to be abruptly calibrated. More successful is Lusty-Cavallari’s own sound design, that proves adept at helping the audience navigate between complex spatial configurations, physical and otherwise.

Demonstrating great commitment to the cause, is a cast of six compelling actors. Lucinda Howes, Kurt Pimblett, Rachel Seeto, Idam Sondhi and Mây Trần, form a well-rehearsed group, persuasive with all they intend to say.

What we can learn from the old guard, is not only that it is time for them to relinquish power to more appropriate people, but also that the way in which their systems have been organised, is in desperate need of transformation. There is not much point, in replacing one head with another, if the entire apparatus refuses to budge. Characters in The Great Australian Play are seen to be falling apart, because they are still operating under old structures. It is accurate to portray them as failures, for none of us is quite sure, as to where our destination should be, if indeed, one could exist. |

Review: They Took Me To A Queer Bar (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Sep 6 – 10, 2022
Writer/Performer: Tommy Misa
Performance Guide: Emma Maye Gibson
Images by Joseph Mayers

Theatre review

Like many queer people, Tommy Misa comes from a history of ostracism. That common experience of marginalisation however, leads us to forming communities, some of which manifest in bonds stronger than those found in biological families. Misa’s one-person show is about that human need to belong, and that search for a sanctuary, in order that one may feel a sense of validation and acceptance.

They Took Me to a Queer Bar is a partially autobiographical work, involving a nightclub named Auntie Lavender’s and a drag queen elder Caramello Koala. Misa demonstrates great reverence for both, whilst trying to grapple with the realities of being a queer person-of-colour, connected to Samoa and to Gadigal. Existing in and between both places, yet experiencing a lifetime of rejection, Misa seems only to be able to locate a wholeness and perhaps become self-actualised, after discovering the people of Auntie Lavender’s.

It is a soulful work, with authenticity emerging from the simplicity with which Misa tells their story. There is wonderful humour informed by the irony, that figures centrally in Misa’s attitudes about life in general, the kind that queer and other marginalised people will surely recognise and identify with. Their expressions can be poetic, but are also mundane, and at times vulgar. At just an hour, Misa’s presentation is a sampler of who they are, and an offering of what our values might be, as queer people who have to rely on each other.

Misa’s performance of the work, is heavily dependent on their charisma, which proves limitless. Their captivating presence, is given excellent shape and nuance, by performance guide Emma Maye Gibson, who ensures that every subtle resonance is unmissed. Much is conveyed between the lines, in a work that exemplifies the power of intimate live theatre.

Set design by Misa and Lyndsay Noyes is effective in helping our attention concentrate on the only physicality that matters in this show, which is the performer’s body. Also meaningful, is a garment that appears late in the piece, created by Nicol & Ford, exuding decadence and making a statement about our history as outsiders. Exquisite lights by Frankie Clarke are almost psychedelic in style, tuning the viewers’ mind to a dreamlike frequency, whilst using colour and movement to suggest the characteristic flamboyance of those incapable of being straight. Sound and music by Jonny Seymour glistens, moves and unifies, adding a dimension of sumptuous transcendence to the communal event.

People who have been excluded and made to feel unworthy, will either regurgitate that same venom (onto others and themselves), or they will become capable of being the most loving of all. It is perhaps miraculous, that those who have been so thoroughly broken, can be the ones who do the most for the world. Similarly, it is astonishing to realise that the greatest pride, resides where the most abominable shame used to be. They Took Me to a Queer Bar shows just how unfair things are, but for those who have come out the other end triumphant, there is no better place to be.

Review: How To Defend Yourself (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Aug 11 – Sep 3, 2022
Playwright: Liliana Padilla
Director: Claudia Barrie
Cast: Georgia Anderson, Madeline Marie Dona, Brittany Santariga, Jessica Spies, Jessica Paterson, Michael Cameron, Saro Lepejian
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review

Two men raped a woman, at an American university campus one night. The student body convulses in response, trying to do its best to make sense of the violence, but finds itself unable to come to terms, with life after the abhorrent episode. In Liliana Padilla’s How to Defend Yourself, we see a group of young people congregating at a dojo, ostensibly taking classes for self-defence, but is in fact finding solace in one another, and hoping for emotional emancipation, following the devastating attack on an institution that had hitherto felt safe and secure.

Padilla’s 2019 play is appropriately cynical and pessimistic, written at a time when the meanings of gender (and its injustices) are rapidly collapsing. We watch characters in the show desperately finding ways to mend their individual lives, within a system that clearly needs an overhaul. Thankfully there is surprising humour to be found throughout the piece, although the production seems hesitant about its implementation. Directed by Claudia Barrie, How to Defend Yourself is certainly well-intentioned, but the way in which its discussions are conducted, often feels surface and perfunctory. A lack of vulnerability, prevents us from reaching deeper into the issues at hand.

Chemistry between cast members too, are insufficiently vigorous, for a story that relies on explosive revelations and overwhelming poignancy. There are strong performances to be found, from the likes of Brittany Santariga and Jessica Spies, who bring emotional intensity, and from Georgia Anderson and Saro Lepejian, with their captivating idiosyncrasies, but not all are able to connect meaningfully with one another. Perhaps it is that disjointed communication, that is at the core of our social problems. No matter how fervent we are, it is an inability to find consensus that hinders progress.

Set design by Soham Apte, along with Emily Brayshaw’s costumes, transport us to the world of American colleges, with accuracy and concision. Lights by Saint Clair have a tendency to be overly enthusiastic, but are effective in bringing visual variety to the imagery that we encounter. Sound design by Samantha Cheng on the other hand, is conservatively rendered but able to manufacture surges of energy when required.

Much of sexual violence springs from our conceptions of gender; what it means to be a man, a woman, and how the two are supposed to converge. We teach our young to take these notions as gospel, and then watch as they relate to everything from their assigned vantage points, as they place themselves in positions of power and subjugation accordingly. We expound to women that the world is kind, and that people nurture one another, while we drill into men that the world is for their taking, and that fortune favours the brave.

To undo that indoctrination, not just for individuals, but for entire societies, has proven a long and arduous road. We are however, in a moment of acceleration, as we awaken from false binaries, and begin to reshape our understanding of being, and of communities. As gender begins to disintegrate, we are forced to reckon with all that it touches, which in essence, is all and everything. We can no longer tolerate prejudice of any kind, which means that we must no longer allow barriers and disadvantage of any description to remain. How we accomplish this pipe dream however is, as Padilla indicates in How to Defend Yourself, quite the mystery.

Review: Burn Witch Burn (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jul 7 – 30, 2022
Playwrights: Tasnim Hossain, Claudia Osborne (based on a story by Fritz Leiber)
Director: Claudia Osborne
Cast: Sheree da Costa, Daniel Gabriel, Alex Packard, Tivy Siripanich and Alex Stamell
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review

When Norman discovers that his successes as a lecturer, are due to the witchcraft that his wife practises, things begin to unravel. Forces light and dark are unleashed, as a chain of secrets get revealed, in Burn Witch Burn by Tasnim Hossain and Claudia Osborne, a work of experimental physical theatre, based on a 1943 story (and 1962 film) by Fritz Leiber.

With an emphasis on atmosphere over narrative, the storytelling becomes nebulous. There may not be much certainty as to what exactly is being said, but the production is often unpredictable and intriguing, able to entertain for most of its duration. Emma White’s set design and Veronique Bennett’s lights offer visual brilliance, inviting our eyes to explore every furtive corner of the space. Chrysoulla Markouli’s exhaustive sound design lures us into the ethereal, where we attempt to connect on a plane that is decidedly esoteric and ephemeral.

Directed by Osborne, Burn Witch Burn is a quirky and charming presentation, although the macabre qualities that it tries to render, prove to be less than affecting. Where it intends to portray horror, the show can feel somewhat hollow. There is meaning to be found in this tale of secret women’s business, but Burn Witch Burn is hesitant to make anything obvious, choosing to keep many of its concerns under wraps. The cast of five embodies that mystery well, willing to be looked at but not really seen, with performer Sheree da Costa leaving a particularly strong impression, full of mesmerising intensity and admirable physical discipline.

In some ways, the witches in the show are an allegory for the ways in which power is distributed and  enforced. Feminists want everyone to embrace their ideals of equality. We believe that a fair world is the best way forward, but there are many in positions of privilege who will not acquiesce to the idea, that the relinquishment of power is often a good thing. It seems that we are a species seduced by injustice, and a destination of peace is therefore impossible. Activism work can never be complete, it has to be in perpetual motion, whether in the confrontation of others, or of the self.

Review: Cleansed (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Jun 9 – 25, 2022
Playwright: Sarah Kane
Director: Dino Dimitriades
Cast: Danny Ball, Stephen Madsen, Tommy Misa, Jack Richardson, Charles Purcell, Fetu Taku, Mây Trần
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review

It is uncertain where the action takes place, but in Sarah Kane’s Cleansed, we see a man named Tinker torturing several individuals, in a manner that implies somewhere utterly and devastatingly fascistic. Tinker is presented as all powerful, able to commit the most heinous of acts without being reprehended, or perhaps his horrific atrocities are indeed sanctioned, by an authority that remains unidentified. Tinker’s victims display no violent and criminal tendencies, only forms of sexual and gender expression that deviate from what some of us might call, the heteronormative.

It is a ghastly thing to witness, this incessant agony being inflicted on characters, in a theatrical presentation obsessed with pain. In truth, moments between the brutality, are filled with depictions of a loving nature, but the suffering is never distant enough, for anything sweet or nice, to sufficiently emerge. We know with hindsight, that Cleansed offers a window into the psyche of a tormented soul. Originally created less than a year before playwright Kane’s suicide, it gives us access to a darkness rarely seen, in any of our communal settings.

Direction by Dino Dimitriadis explores that space of terror, without mitigation. The intensity with which Kane’s writing is transposed on this occasion, is uncompromising, and quite shocking in its effect. The concept of body horror, figures prominently in the staging, to communicate with veracity, not only the level of anguish experienced by those devoid of hope, but also to depict the psychological consequences of homophobia and transphobia, in some of our everyday existences.

Dimitriadis appropriately manufactures for us, a sense of escalating dread and revulsion, refusing to give in to any need for reprieve. There is no room for politeness, when matters are truly urgent. The audience is left to its own devices, to access mental fortitude wherever it can, in order to get to the end of Cleansed, should they choose to stay. Exiting prematurely, in this case, is also an understandable and valid cause of action.

Sound design by Benjamin Pierpoint is relied upon to strike fear into our hearts, and its efficacy cannot be understated. If your worst nightmare can be represented in an audio recording, Pierpoint has accomplished it here. Jeremy Allen’s set design is black, hard and stony, to convey the cruelty that our species is capable of inflicting on one another. Lights by Benjamin Brockman and Morgan Moroney are similarly icy, offering only the most explicit perspective of the inhumanity being exposed. Costumes by Connor Milton are aesthetically understated, but the way injury and decapitation is represented, is cleverly achieved, and suitably gruesome.

Actor Danny Ball is marvellous as Tinker, deadpan but terrifying, full of ambiguity in his portrayal of pure evil. The quietness of Ball’s performance disallows us to undermine the severity of his character’s barbaric deeds; it is the absence of dramatics in Tinker’s cruelty that makes us see it exactly for what it is. Mây Trần as Grace, delivers some of the most affecting emotional authenticity one could hope to see in the flesh. To be able to muster such a visceral and accurate presence for a character at the very depths of despair, is evidence of an artist of the highest calibre at work. The unforgettable Stephen Madsen shakes us to the core, with spine-chilling screams and a ravaged physicality that tragically deteriorates over time. It is a splendid cast of seven incendiary types, determined to say something devastating, in an extremely powerful way.

Cleansed may not be about a universal experience, but the harrowing nature of its story is contingent on our ability to all feel the same pain. Tinker knows how to inflict pain, because he too knows what it is to suffer. There is a dissonance that always exist perhaps, in our ability to do unto others what we wish not to have done to ourselves. It may seem that a constant in being human, involves a need to perceive difference. To be able to think of some as more deserving than others, allows for power to manifest. To be able to think of some as inferior, allows for abuse to take place. Tinker is no different from the rest; understanding how he gets to exercise such power, is the key to dismantling so many of our ills.

Review: Ate Lovia (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), May 12 – Jun 4, 2022
Playwright: Jordan Shea
Director: Kenneth Moraleda
Cast: Dindi Huckle-Moran, Anna Lee, Chaya Ocampo, Joseph Raboy, Marcus Rivera
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
It was 1996, and Australia could no longer deny that a tide was turning, when a newly-elected Senator proclaimed that we were “in danger of being swamped with Asians”. The long held national pride around notions of mateship and the fair-go, was obliterated overnight. Division and prejudice had suddenly become sanctioned, marking a significant occasion of innocence lost, in our collective history. Jordan Shea’s Ate Lovia is a story about a Filipino-Australian family, set during that watershed moment, when Asians on this land were singularly vilified. In the ensuing social disunity, we observe the fractures that had extended from the top levels of government, into the homes of individuals.

Lovia and Vergel are siblings, who live with their alcoholic father Jovy. There is no shortage of love in the household, but the trauma that Jovy had suffered before and after coming to Australia, means that peace is elusive. Fleeing persecution, only to find himself becoming a second-class citizen in a white colony, Jovy does his best to raise his Australian children, but the hardship he faces daily, proves too hard to bear. In Jordan Shea’s Ate Lovia, we see two teenagers left to their own devices, trying to find their feet in sink or swim circumstances.

Shea’s writing is astute and passionate, almost rhapsodic with the emotions that it captures. Its narrative may not feel original, but there is a level of detail in its observations, that makes for delicious theatre, fascinating and amusing to a great degree, whilst making statements that are important for a nuanced understanding of life on this land. Under the directorship of Kenneth Moraleda, Ate Lovia is strikingly authentic with the people it seeks to represent, and even though his approach is not quite as fastidious as the material requires, what the show is able to articulate, is resonant and undoubtedly truthful.

Production design by Ruru Zhu is simple, but powerfully evocative. Martin Kinnane’s lights help to tell the story in a succinct and direct way. Music and sound by Michael Toisuta are adventurous augmentations, sometimes humorous, and sometimes bold.

Actor Chaya Ocampo is an earnest Lovia, slightly limited with the sentiments she is able to convey for the titular role, but nonetheless a dedicated and resolute presence. Joseph Raboy plays Vergel with similar enthusiasm, and commendable with the introspective qualities he introduces, but certainly falls short in terms of physical discipline, in a role that requires exceptional dance ability. Jovy is given extraordinary energy by an intense Marcus Rivera, whose unabashed depiction of a melodramatic personality, offers a disarming style of performance rarely seen in colonised art spaces. Dindi Huckle-Moran as Lou, and Anna Lee as Wendy, are integral to the action, both performers bringing valuable buoyancy to the show.

Unable to find a sense of belonging in his adopted home of Australia, Jovy is in turn incapable of providing for his children, the security that they need to flourish. Lovia and Vergel soon discover the limitations of what their family can provide, and begin searching outside, but the rejections faced by their father, are likely to befall every subsequent generation in not dissimilar ways. That is, unless things improve. Comparing Asian-Australian lives today with 1996, we are unlikely to come to any firm conclusion, about the extent to which conditions have changed. The only certainty is that there is still a lot of work to be done, before the matter of race can be put to rest. |

Review: Volcanoes And Vulvas (Old Fitz Theatre)

Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), May 3 – 7, 2022
Director and Performer: Cheryn Frost
Co-Writers: Brylie Frost, Cheryn Frost

Theatre review
It is the artist’s passion that takes centre stage in Volcanoes and Vulvas, a one-woman show that excavates at the deepest recesses of Cheryn Frost’s psyche, for a theatrical portrait of feminine desire and queer love. The natural phenomenon of volcanoes, with all their eruptive force, is introduced into these discussions about the libido, as well as drawing humorous parallels between geological dikes and Frost’s sexual identity as a proud lesbian. A reminder perhaps, that the social and the natural, are to be regarded as one and the same.

The work resides in a place of impulse and emotion, which means its intellectual dimensions can feel somewhat under-explored, but its powerful aesthetics draw us in convincingly, and convey with exactitude, the internal realities of what it must be like to be Frost. An exquisite set design by Jessie Spencer, along with hypnotic lights by Frankie Clarke, seduce us into a state that is both rapturous and viscerally erotic, helping us connect the libido of humanity with the palpable drives of the rest of nature. Angus Mills creates a soundtrack that surreptitiously disarms, operating like sonic lubrication, in order that we may welcome the artist’s earnest expressions with commensurate openness.

As performer, Frost is charming, with a distinct vulnerability that keeps us firmly on side. It is admirable that she pushes herself to points of discomfort, so that a more dramatic experience could be manufactured, but it is in more introspective moments where Frost feels most authentic and inviting. At approximately 40 minutes, Volcanoes and Vulvas is unapologetically succinct. There is an insistence on honesty, of only saying what the artist wants to say, even if it is ultimately a simple and small statement.