Devil Woman – Clare Dea review by Shannessy Danswan
Anyone who is an avid follower of Clare Dea’s work knows that only she could pull off a full house on her opening night at the 2019 Fringe Festival. With the most supportive audience members in Melbourne at the ready, the buzz around her second one-woman show has resulted in a very curious and anticipating crowd…
Devil Woman takes us on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance. As Clare divulges hidden truths about her experience with Poland’s Syndrome, and deep-seated insecurities regarding her endless attempts to break into the professional music theatre world, we witness the tireless battle with self that both young women, and young artists go through to successfully ‘fit in’.
Through characterisation and embodiment of various facets of her nature, Clare is both heartfelt and comedic as she shares her story through song and monologue. Despite her sometimes-shaky vibrato, Clare’s songs are perfectly placed as ‘audition pieces’ after each scene. Simple and original self-accompanied four chord songs see Clare sing about her newly discovered ‘Devil Woman’, all the way through to her thoroughly thought-out ‘Four Man Plan’. Lyrically and melodically, her songs are not complex, however this works in her favour in terms of the show’s pacing and ease of access; particularly when she effectively wills the audience to stand up and sing along.
Clare makes speaking directly to the audience for 50 minutes look like second nature, proving herself as a confident speaker and performer. Utilising back stage for her impressively fast costume changes; she emerges through red stage curtains, each time bringing to life a new voice from her psyche. The most impressive of her characters is the satirical candour of ‘Crystal Indigo Light’ – a character formulated from Clare’s years of embracing self-help, coaching, conscious living, and all things hippie. Hilarious in her ability to take the absolute piss out of the conscious community and her place in it, Crystal is a welcome voice for those who are tired of playing ‘good and nice’. In contrast, ‘Devil Woman’ acts as the leather and lingerie-clad bad girl who Clare dubs as her voice of truth and rebellion.
However, given that this show is in fact titled Devil Woman, I found myself disappointed with the lack of stage time for this character. Focussing on the development of ‘Devil Woman’ and her voice, would definitely have allowed a clearer narrative to unfold and a more satisfying resolve to end the show. Seeing as Devil Woman is heavily autobiographical, it is understandable why Clare chose to include her ‘insecure performer’, ‘vulnerable teenager’, and ‘whimsical child’ voices. However, the show suffered to some degree from her reliance on these sentimentalities. Given that ‘Devil Woman’ and ‘Crystal Indigo Light’ are such strong characters, and arguably the most convincing acting-wise, a focus on their direct relationship with each other as an angel-devil dynamic would have added another element to Devil Woman and really strengthened Clare’s ‘transcendental’ intentions with this show.
However, Clare knows how to woo her audience and she does so extremely well. Flirting with front row audience members and engaging the entire crowd by asking non-rhetorical questions meant that we were always connected to her on-stage experience, despite any plot holes.
Devil Woman is a must-see cabaret for those who want to change things up and watch something a little more raw, a little more original, and a lot more Clare Dea.