How to be a Lady
Tessa Waters @ The Bunka
9:00pm, Sun 7 Mar 2010
So – Irene and I had been having a right rollicking drinkyfest and seeing lots of shows at the TuxCat this arvo; I take my leave and wander across the road to The Bunka to see How to be a Lady. Lo and behold, they’ve got Rockford‘s Alicante Bouchet behind the bar, so I snaffle a glass of that and sit down.
A tap on my shoulder – “Hi Pete!” says Tahli’s cheery face. I’d not seen Tahli since she was last in town for Conclusions: On Ice, so it was great to have a catch-up chat and giggle… in the midst of which Irene arrives. I introduce the two women, and Tahli exclaims “oh, you’re the one who didn’t like Death in Bowengabbie!”
Which made me smile. A lot.
Anyway – I was attracted to this show because of the Guide description “a comedy about a modern girl trying to become a lady.” Now, when I read “modern,” I don’t think “stereotypical 50’s or 60’s housewife” – but that’s how Tessa Waters appears, neatly dressed for the housework she fusses over, muttering to herself all the while. And it’s a meticulous, but slow, opening… until the mail arrives.
Opening her mail, she finds a tape – it’s the eponymous instructional tape “How to be a Lady”. She plays it, attempting to act out its instructions (which act as a narration for much of the rest of the performance), and it’s – frankly – hilarious. This Lady’s Gentleman was, of course, an anthromorphically charming dildo, and Tessa receives detailed directions on how to best keep him happy – only to see him run off and have an affair with a toilet brush, enacted with crude – but gut-bustingly funny – puppetry.
Tessa Waters was witty and charming throughout, with her understated and muted dialog coming across as frustrated whimpering. Her facial expressions were an absolute joy to behold; from the shocked prudishness of encountering the underwear in the mail, to the eyes-wide-open delight of the rediscovery of her fingers, to remorse, her Lady was the result of some wonderful characterisation. Her set was gloriously lo-fi, and felt like it’d fit right in with her dress. But the direction is wonderful, and whilst there are a few flat spots in the script – I reckon ten minutes could be trimmed without adverse effect – this was still a brilliant bit of slightly-off-kilter Fringe comedy.