In this physically and psychologically challenging piece of performance art, Andi Snelling personifies her experience with Lyme disease in a well-balanced act between light and dark in Happy-Go-Wrong.
As the audience enters, a blue wash of LEDs and a playful score see ‘Lucky,’ a French angel, stumble and fumble her way across the black box theatre in roller-skates and an aviator helmet, inanely and comically making up for Andi being “stuck behind the fourth wall.”
Controlled in her ‘uncontrollable’ physicality, Lucky makes a point of referring to life as “dangerous,” with every fall, jerk and throw of her body as pointed as the next. Witty banter sees Lucky’s commute to Earth as a farcical and endearing endeavour, particularly when she attempts to get Andi’s attention with a makeshift paper horn wrapped around a tiny music box; her “wake up call.” As the line between Lucky and Andi blurs, and her movement pieces become more angular, joint-led, and jarring, Andi’s raw sensibility finds its way into her performance.
This is most impressive during her interactions with various props, which act
as physical representations for the controlling, binding, and all-consuming nature of her chronic condition. Witnessing Andi become enveloped by each object’s unassuming power is both captivating and heart wrenching. A chair becomes a prison for Andi’s once wholesome body and a conduit for an admissible existential crisis. She meticulously manoeuvres her way through large wads of butchers’ paper, only to find herself swallowed by the ‘paper’ and its power. This allegorical idea of being suffocated by fear and that which is out of our control is not only limited to physical malady, but can also be attributed to the experience of dealing with other invisible illnesses, like anxiety or depression; making Andi’s conceptuality accessible to many.
In a weird, wonderful, and confronting sarcastic, plastic presentation, Andi dons a black bin bag and blonde wig, epitomising the façade she presents to the world. Accompanying this she spouts the various “right wrong things” people quip when querying about her Lyme disease. She proceeds to bounce her hip and press her overlapped hands down in front of her in an awkward, forced, doll-like fashion. This passive-aggressive piece is borderline manic and reflects the most dark and repressed parts of self in such an overt way that it forces you to be in the ‘uncomfortable’ with her.
Not only are moments like this visceral and emotionally provocative, but her soundscape alongside lengthy blackouts is also really well executed. Ordinarily, I find blackouts unnecessary and feel they often break the flow of a show, however, Andi’s Pre/Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Courtesy Calls, deliver comedic relief and add a layer of recurring motif that provides a sense of being ‘in the know.’
Always intriguing and never pre-emptive, Andi holds my attention from start to finish. As she emotionally and physically bares all, no ounce of her expression feels desperate or self-deprecating. Her nakedness by the end walks the fine line between ‘artist wank’ and genuine vulnerability, however I feel more inclined to say it falls closer to the latter… the naked roller-skating with a child-like grin from ear-to-ear really sells it for me.
Her collaboration with director and Action Theatre practitioner, Danielle Cresp, is explorative and innovative. The two make a fantastic duo. The French-themed soundtrack accompanied with her multitude of movement pieces (including regular, pride-filled chest pumps) accentuate the powerful affects, which physical theatre can have on an audience when delving into topics that can’t always be explored with words alone. Even small details like the little first aid cross on her prop box does not go unnoticed. Perhaps the show could do with some further character development and utilisation of more storytelling tools towards the end, but overall this show has so much potential. For Andi’s artistic sake and the entire Lyme community of Australia, I hope Happy-Go-Wrong gains more traction and both get the reception they deserve.
If you wish to donate to the team of people who regularly help performers who are in Andi’s position, please follow this link!