Gin Sister, presented by Man With A Plan, is an eclectic hot mess and absolutely stunning performance of an original work, but difficult to follow in the best kind of way. Set out to be the ultimate theatrical response to women’s drinking culture in the world, the show is exactly that, a bold and evocative statement about the way alcohol and women have been portrayed across time.
In talking with other audience members afterwards, many left with the same feelings of awe, appreciation and total lack of comprehension as to what we just watched, but we really enjoyed it. The show is a mash up of performances in dance, song, some of Chekov’s play Three Sisters, a pile of popular culture and what feels like every 20-something’s blurred memories of last weekend, but it has no driving plot point, only strung together by a powerful theme of the effects alcohol and alcoholism can have on a person, their family and their lives. Much of this is what makes the show truly beautiful to behold: snippets and scenes out of the lives of a variety of people, and their perceptions and interactions with a drink.
The show is contemporary and very Australian in it’s influences, from the accents and behaviours to what looks like the unfortunate but well known Australian binge drinking culture strewn across the stage. From the subtle Tinder references to the bravado of the drunken Australian in the bar, proudly listing achievements and skills, the show begins wickedly funny and quickly becomes deep, thought provoking, and soul baring.
Quoted in an article earlier this month, one of the performers Alice Cavangh says “we wanted to give the audience the experience of being drunk”, and that is exactly what this show is. A nostalgic look, as this 20 something millennial sits in the hall quietly thinking, Yes, this is what some of my teen years looked and felt like, and this jarred, celebration and condemnation is exactly the way society sees alcohol, and reaches for the bottle. This is a work you will sympathise with, criticize, understand and also feel gob smacked: it will make you think, it will make you panic, it will make you reflect on good things and bad. When trying to think of the show as a whole, I and many others did not understand it, and missed the point of it- come to this show with an open mind and not looking for a linear story, and you will be gifted with the beautiful learnings and reflections from this piece.
The set is stunning: set on the stripped back, warm boards of the New Ballroom at Trades Hall, this heritage listed venue provides itself a blank but diverse canvas for the artists to paint this show upon. The centre piece, a beautiful wind chime like staircase of wine glasses, pots and tumblers, filled in a rainbow of liquor until they climb up into the air, strung up with fishing wire across the stage. Pair this with the lighting and the deliberate grace the performers use to interact with this piece (including the sloppy but deliberate drinking of majority of the liquid on the set) and this is an interesting one to watch.
The lighting plays with the set well, with a simple handful of red and white side fills, and standard theatre top lighting creates incredible silhouettes of the wine glass shapes and the performers across the hall, with big bold shadows larger than life at one end of the hall and timid, cramped shadows at the other end, presenting so many different perspectives and journeys through the script and scenes.
The sound was creative and evocative of nightclubs and nostalgia and well-known Australian and female artists. With a mash up of popular culture and 20s style sounds, as well as singing acapella by the three performers in harmony, the sound is constantly varied and takes us through the jarring journey of the show. The transitions are exactly that: jarring and not unlike a black out, or where the edges of those memories get a little hazy as the action blurs into the next.
Performances by Alice Cavangh, Jean Goodwin and Emma Hall were dedicated, bold and moving, with each of the three performers transforming into a myriad of different females, set in different time periods, with different life experiences and from different worlds. From the incredibly powerful acapella rendition of Chandelier by Sia, to the fight style choreography, sharp snappy dancing to messy club inspired movements, and informative and thought provoking monologues, each performer didn’t miss a step in each of the inconsequential scenes. The costuming was simple and uniform, a beige- yellow coloured dress that suited all of the performers, however I’m not sure I needed to see so much underwear. Regardless, the dresses gave the performers freedom to dance, fight, move, crawl and race through the show.
The stage was well navigated by the cast, with discreet props hidden across the space that aided their transformations. While the disjointed nature of the show often meant we were confused by the sharp transitions of the segments, leaving us watching the actors well after the next scene has started.
Overall this is a performance of true grace and courage, tackling an incredibly diverse subject matter, in both a positive, negative and neutral matter. While there is no linear story line, and that’s still a little hard to grasp, the performances and set were knock out and the concept is a brilliant piece of art, intrigue and beauty.
Gin Sister plays as part of The Poppyseed Festival at Trades Hall until 6 December.