No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Melbourne Fringe Review: Choir Girl

Choir politics, it seems, are a very big deal.

Which choir you’re in; who they accept and who they reject; their history; their venue; their accompanist; what section of the choir you are in; what food you bring; how much you rehearse; who gives whom a carpool.

Anything I’ve missed? Dozens of things, I’m sure.

Sarah Collins’ Choir Girl is a somewhat befuddling look into the world and the politics of choirs, of being an outsider, and of finding spaces for the lonely. A one-woman show, it is at its core, a small and simple story about Susan (alto) joining a new prestigious choir two bus trips away, while struggling to fit in amongst the other women of the choir and desperately fantasising about the accompanist.

This seemingly simple, one-woman show, though, is far from small. Joining Collins on the small stage in the Lithuanian Club Ballroom is an ensemble of fifteen women making up the choir: making this a small story epically told.

Collins’ Susan is earnest and heartwarming in all the right ways, while also being dark and incredulously manipulative. Incredibly dorkily invested in choir, slightly socially awkward, judgmental, and slightly lacking in empathy and social awareness, Collins nonetheless manages to pull of a character that, if we’re not exactly rooting for her, we’re still in some way cheering her on. This choral world – which to me is entirely foreign – becomes a refuge for the lonely Susan: a place where she can blend perfectly in as a good choir girl should, but you get the idea she feels she is so good at blending in she is probably the best at blending in, and so she is probably the best in all circumstances.

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Melbourne Fringe Review: More Intimate Than

Those of us who sit around the table tonight have been selected. We’ve been watched. Observed. Chosen because we are just the right balance of people who might – just might – remember. We might be able to be reminded. And when we’re reminded, when we remember, we might – just might – help someone else remember.

In a street-front gallery on Brunswick St sits a little house built of sheets. Solid sheets and lace sheets drape over the long dining table, windows quilted into the fabric. As we enter the gallery and wait to enter the house, through the curtains we watch as a woman, Punzel (Laura Jane Emes), is in the house setting the table: counting and recounting plates, adjusting their alignment although they remain always crooked. There is a slight air of discomfort as we wait: has the show begun yet? Should I be looking through into the space? Is it okay to speak?

When all of the guests have arrived, however, we are invited into the space and directed to a take a seat. There is a seat reserved for Punzel’s mother, and a seat reserved for Punzel’s father, while the rest of the seats reserved for us.

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