Hard to Reach Places Review by DJ Pearce
Not everything with substance has to be serious, and that’s what you find in Hard to Reach Places, a short vaudevillian-style performance by Melbourne based circus and theatre performer Anna Lumb. A 45-min wild ride of unexpected twists and turns, Anna takes us with her on an honest and relatable ride through what feels like an autobiographical day-in-the-life, bringing moments as a mother, working woman, and performer to life on stage.
Anna is Immediately likeable, bringing a wonderful energetic presence to the stage, welcoming and encouraging to the audience. The performance is filled with upbeat music, played for humour and sometimes mania, with that mood spreading throughout the room. A touch of the poetic fills her spoken word sections, easily overlapping with more of the musical and circus elements.
In between the cheers and chuckles, a story begins to emerge that touches on parenthood, gender, self-esteem and confidence. While at first glance this might seem like a story you’ve heard before, there’s enough reality infused to ensure it feels unique and personal. A particular highlight involves a small contortionists ring, elevated to brilliance through transformations and implied meanings, a subtle storytelling device paired with some stunning physical skills which mesmerise. In moments not played for applause, Anna showcases the incredible expressive capabilities of a body fully commanded by its owner.
A similarly sublime moment involves little more than Missy Higgins, and a sweet potato peeled with pathos. Anna shows great versatility here, switching from the lyrical to the literal, taking the audience from transfixed silence to a knowing, raucous laughter. While a friendly audience on opening night, Anna showed virtuosic handling of participation, both encouraging and enabling individuals to assist her while ensuring the momentum of the performance continued.
While successful with the audience, other times the pacing and delivery could be a little stop-start. Anna controls some of the production elements from an on-stage DJ booth, which serves well as the audience enters, but seems to have too many fiddly bits that almost get in the way. There’s only bare bones setting, lights and costumes, all of which serve to provide a straightforward platform for us to engage with the performance, but leave no room to hide. With such an exposed staging, any technical blips could leave a less friendly audience off-side just as they’re beginning to warm up. And while the return to a “morning routine” bop between each chapter helps to structure the story, by the third time it starts, the movements and song become a little too familiar to keep us energised.
All of this is forgotten as the performance reaches its climax, with an impressive and visually stunning display of hooping skills. Anna Lumb proves in moments what she alludes to throughout the evening, that she is a performer at the peak of her practice, as captivating as she is capable.
If you’re taking in multiple Fringe shows in a night, this show could be the perfect antidote after something heavier or darker, perhaps even theatre that may take itself too seriously. Hard to Reach Places shows how you can make a point without preaching, and brings a personal and relatable touch to a familiar story. It’s hilarious and joyful, but still leaves you with some substance supporting the fun.
Hard to Reach Places is playing at the Quilt Room – Fringe Hub until 20 September, 2019.
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