Looking for Tiger Lily

Anthony Hudson Looking for Tiger LilyNow in its third instalment, the YIRRAMBOI festival showcases acts by First Nations performers. In Looking for Tiger Lily, Anthony Hudson, a self-described “Indian” of Portland Oregon, related his experiences of growing up uncertain about his place in the world.

The promotional image seemed somewhat misleading, as this was a one-person show. We began with Hudson’s alter-ego, the white-face wearing drag clown Carla Rossi. Ms Rossi would appear in person or on a screen at various times over the course of the performance. Her face is intended as a rebuttal of the use of black-face by white people, and to subvert expectations.

Unfortunately, the success of satire depends on the audience being conversant with the subject matter. I suspect that an Australian audience, even one somewhat interested in the world, is unlikely to have much understanding of the experiences of “Native Americans”. (Hudson advised us that this is the term for official forms, “Indigenous” is for grant applications.) This made the show often feel like a missed opportunity to share insights.

Hudson certainly has a well-drilled show, hitting his cues in interacting with rapid-fire collages of images. Many of these referenced US pop-culture or products I hadn’t seen before. The short time allowed to view each image could make such sequences a demanding exercise in interpretation. This made the piece feel like a kaleidoscope at times, which was an unfortunate distraction from the monologue.

The work posed other distracting questions to the audience, such as why Hudson’s brothers were raised on a reservation and Hudson wasn’t? And then we could drift into wondering if a Reservation was actually a good place to grow up, or not?

It might be that this 60 minutes of ruminations on how “Indian” Hudson was, or on his body dysmorphia, or sexuality, often covered too much ground too quickly, denying us much chance to absorb the view.

One of the more consistent threads of the story related to the character of the Indian Princess Tiger Lily from Peter Pan. As a child, Hudson loved the 1960 NBC TV movie version, where Peter was played by Mary Martin, and Tiger Lily by Sondra Dee, both blonde, white women. Hudson articulated his interest in the misappropriation of race, and fluidity of gender here, the latter which was of comfort to him as he grew from child to adolescent.

Lacking familiarity with some references, I regret that I didn’t learn much from Looking for Tiger Lily. Still, Hudson clearly has a snappy way with images, and some of his slides might yet become memes around the next US Presidential Election.

Looking for Tiger Lily
Yirramboi Weelam – Meat Market, 3 Blackwood Street, North Melbourne
Performance: Wednesday 8 May 2019 – 6:15pm
Season: 8 – 10 May 2019 (closed)
Information: www.yirramboi.net.au

Image: Anthony Hudson in Looking for Tiger Lily – photo by Gia Goodrich

Review: Jason Whyte