The friendship between Circus stalwarts Sue Broadway and Debra Batton dates back to their time at Circus Oz in the 1990s. Each has had many years of performing in big top tents and theatres around the world. The pair combine to produce One and the Other: A Performance Memoir – a work aiming to combine “circus, theatre, clown and vaudeville.”
First performed at the same venue in May 2017, this edition has some differences. There’s a new design due to Emily Barrie which was colourful and fun, giving a sense of the eclecticism to follow. Another addition is an original score performed by the multi-instrumentalist Teresa Blake. This effectively created a variety of moods appropriate for the on-stage action, complemented by Sarah Platt’s lighting design.
Most sequences of clowning or circus skills were crisply presented, highlighting the talents of the performers and the experience of director Clare Bartholomew in this area. Broadway comes from a long line of vaudeville performers, and showed how she continues this tradition with some amusing banter whilst performing tricks.
Other areas of the work seemed quite casual by comparison. Batton had two sequences to showcase her track record; one on various festivals she’d performed at, another on her haul of gymnastics trophies (highlighting an ability still visible in her movement).
Her example showed that it’s ok for women to talk about their talents (as men often do). But both segments lacked a twist, and dragged because of this. I felt sure that there must be untold stories from these times that would have been more interesting than the checklist of the first segment. In the second, deliberate fumbling lost its appeal quite quickly.
There also seemed to be a certain casual attitude to how the work was labelled. Given the swearing and full-frontal nudity, it is appropriate to advise potential audiences of this. From the A Performance Memoir part of the title, I found myself wanting more details on this at times. It seems that trying to combine so many disciplines here has squeezed the time available for a narrative.
Audiences will form their own idea of how useful it is to say “F*** you” to a series of past antagonists who are not in the room. Regardless, Broadway and Batton are strong women, who having suffered from others claim their right to please themselves.
Their show combined menace and silliness, and appropriately for a performance during the Victorian Seniors Festival, this One and the Other were certainly not afraid to be heard or seen. Broadway and Batton make growing old(er) disgracefully look like a good addition to a life’s aims.
One and the Other: A Performance Memoir
La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street, Carlton
Performance: Friday 19 October 2018 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 28 October 2018
Information and Bookings: www.lamama.com.au
Image: Debra Batton and Sue Broadway (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte