Fringe in the ‘Stings / 10 October 2019 / By Bridie Freeman
The wolf’s here, harassing the clientele, avariciously flogging cash for cash. He’s been turning up for days now. Last night he howled on the street outside, after being turfed out for an uncontrolled tantrum at the bar. He’s scoffed mass quantities of pasta on the corner, initiated an orgy in a parked-up passion wagon, couch surfed the garden bar, held forth vaingloriously from a soap box, and generally caused disruption, discomfort. And intrigue.
The suit (thanks, Alexander’s Menswear) with a wolf’s head (bless Morag Shaw) has got a bit of an online following. And tonight, after lounging on the green at Albert Square, sloughing off our workaday concerns with live music and the first sunburns of the season, we’re following him IRL into the opening of Fringe.
There’s a bunch-up in the narrow halls of Common Room, as punters jostle for tickets and drinks, some mosing in to the garden bar, others funnelling in to the main stage set-up for feminist shenanigans, the rest tripping down two doors to the pop-up venue in the still-to-open gin distillery, where young Molly and Danica will flaw us with their brilliance, and later Jess Atkin and the Urban Cats.
Tessa Waters is dressed in glittery pink and gold, she’s got a big mouth on her T-shirt and matching big mouth earrings. She’s highly trained and acclaimed, she assures us before commencing her show Fully Sik with a pillow fight and a series of stupidly funny, mimed sketches, labelled and interactive. ‘Woman goes on a luge’; ‘Woman goes to work on her period’, etc. By the time she smashes the glass ceiling, high-kicking her way out of the office like a “Beyonce she-wolf legend” (Sorry, Barry – Barry’s collatorial, smash the patriarchy! soz), we’re in the cup of her hand and this brand of infectious, relatable silliness.
A highlight is her sidenote, where she embodies – literally enacts, personifies – a clitoris, and not just the head (“bonsoir, monsieur”) but the full 6-inch arms and legs of this incredible organ. It’s not really describable – none of this is – but trust me, it’s funny and for many enlightening.
In ‘Woman goes to a party with a bottle of wine’ (and gets wasted), Tessa mime-passes a joint around the room, where the audience by this time, duly mime-toking, is stoned on giggles and their complicity in joining the fun.
There’re silly games – ‘Touch me if you can’ – and an amazing/ridiculous hoola hoop finale, which calls on our limbered-up imagination and the take-home awareness that this is a woman in charge of her own body. “Fabulous!” proclaim the 30-something-year-old ladies next to me, wiping the tears from their eyes, “So good.”
There’s no holding back for loud, proud, sex-positive poet Kate Spencer – raunchy feminist, committed Christian, co-producer of Poetry in Motion, Naked Girls Reading NZ, the Bare-Breasted Project. In a bright orange dress, sensual lipstick and a play on outrageous extroversion, Kate puts a compulsive sexual spin on every word that can possibly be spun – Fringe becomes ‘minge’, for instance – as she celebrates her unapologetic, high-drive libido and the pleasures of her genitals. In rhyme.
Her poems are odes to unconditional self-love and embracing desire. To not just accepting or even owning her female body, with all its secretions and urges, but to ‘going there’ with an unabashed relish, ratcheting up the shock factor. The poems range from manifestos on pubic hair – “I’m going to be blunt / my cunt / is fucking hairy…” – and mammaries, to celebrity crush, masturbation, menstruation, sex shaming, anal sex, female ejaculation – “not just one almighty sploosh letting loose the juice but over and over and over…”
But there’s no sign it’s too much for the prude Kiwis in the house. The crowd is vocal, riotously joyous. There’s an almost ecstatic reception that this can be allowed. There are clicks of resonance – those poetry slam nods of yes, or thank you, or well said. Lots of laughter. Water pistols.
Hastings is game. And with Fringe it’s game on.
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