La Mama Courthouse presents Sue Broadway and Debra Batton, local circus luminaries, who share their sentiments on how to age ‘disgracefully’. This is the central message of their show, One and the Other, presented on a minimalist stage and directed by Clare Bartholomew against the backdrop of marvellous live compositions from Teresa Blake.
Opening with a whimsical tea party, the two engage the audience and establish their characters with humor. Broadway is a hostess and raconteur with stories to tell and tea and sweets on offer. Batton is her not-so-helpful assistant who nevertheless admires her dominant friend. The thing is the stories are not entirely contrived.
Broadway and Batton use their real names and refer to their real histories. Broadway is a descendant of the Broadway vaudeville family who has carried the family torch to the antipodes, becoming a also founding member of Circus Oz. Batton is a performer with a wealth of experience in circus, acting and the arts, and a background in gymnastics. The pair have a pre-existing artistic relationship and their chemistry in One and the Other cannot be denied. There is a chaotic charm to their act as the party reaches its messy (and creamy) conclusion. We also get the first of many convincing ‘fuck you’s’ in the first act.
You will be confused, you will laugh, you will question nip slips and the true nature of the pair’s bond. Their relationship is illuminated in a variety of lights throughout the performance and right from the beginning you will wonder whether they are friends, accomplices or foes. Possibly frenemys.
Teresa Blake’s live music compositions really ought to be commended. I didn’t think much of the sound to begin with but the unique musical score soon began to complement each act fittingly. This composer, set up at the end of the stage, seamlessly whipped out recorders, percussion, cello and even a harp in an impressive mini performance of her own.
Themes around the arts – funding it, working in it, hierarchies, being a woman, being a feminist – are touched upon. Experience is an accompaniment of age and the leading ladies share a number of blunt truths and messages which would resonate with people of a certain age, especially women. I found this was the demographic in the crowd – middle-aged woman – with the loudest laughs and greatest appreciation of the material. Best-selling author and cartoonist Kaz Cooke certainly seemed to appreciate it (KC: ‘Sue Broadway and Deb Batton nearly made me wet my pants. Mind you, soon I probably won’t need a reason’) and as one of the many girls who read Girl Stuff at 13, I have a lot of faith in Kaz Cooke’s recommendations, and hence my hopes for this show were high. Alas, as somebody who doesn’t quite fit the above demographic, I did find myself at times missing ‘punch lines’ and humour which I know worked because some of my fellow audience members were in stitches.
Some sketches lasted just a tad too long as I struggled to grasp why I was watching the slow displaying of trophies and ongoing physical comedy and repetitive arguments which lasted much longer than the circus acts.
Having said that, it’s obvious the performers have many talents and we get glimpses into those skills through juggling sketches, balancing acts, slapstick comedy and acrobatics. And a gimmick at the show’s conclusion which would have a broad appeal and break through the demographic barrier.
La Mama Courthouse ; May 24 – June 4