A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, And A Prayer
A massive ensemble assembled by Acorn Productions @ Higher Ground
11:00am, Sun 26 Feb 2012
I’ve always been interested in spoken word performances, and in the last year I’ve started actually seeing these shows: readings, poetry jams, it’s all good. If there’s someone on a stage throwing out considered words, I’m all ears. And I’ve always wanted to attend Fringe spoken word gigs, but they always seem to get culled – too long, too chancey. But this event, however, was blessed with a conflict-free timeslot.
As I arrive there’s a pretty decent crowd assembled – OJ and nibbles (“light brunch included”) are doing the rounds, and there’s a positive buzz in the air. I scan the crowd for familiar faces – I spot Richard Fry sitting on a couch; I say hello, get a bright and cheery response, but leave him to continue reading his part of the performance. A more focused look around reveals more performers scanning their readings: studies of concentration amid the enthusiastic hubbub of the audience.
A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, And A Prayer was an event in recognition of V-Day: a global movement to stop violence against women. As such, all of the pieces presented dealt with violence or oppression of one form or another; Tammy Franks (Greens Member of the SA Legislative Council) opened proceedings with a stern but heartfelt poem, before Guy Masterson relayed a wonderfully entertaining tale in marked contrast to its predecessor. The tone of the eleven pieces of the day veered wildly between entertaining-with-a-message (Anna Thomas’ cheerfully ironic retelling of I Can’t Wait) to the blunt gender-awareness of Rescue. From the vicious societal appraisal of Eve Ensler’s Fur Is Back, to the almost alien descriptions of Cambodian brothels in Nicholas D. Kristof’s conflicted journalism (given appropriate solemnity by Dushyant Kumar). The futility of 1600 Elmwood Avenue; the inherent sadness and frustration of Carol Michèle Kaplan’s True (a perfect match for Richard Fry’s style of delivery).
But the undoubtable “highlight” – though it really feels disrespectful to the subject to call it that – was Amy Victoria Brooks’ reading of Christine House’s Blueberry Hill (which I swear I’ve heard read before… though I can’t imagine where). That chilling gang-rape scenario – with the almost jarring sense of humanity and liberation in its closing paragraphs – is a powerful piece of writing, delivered with perfect amounts of helplessness, frenzy, and phoenix-like redemption.
Co-director Tamara Bennetts wrapped up the readings with another Eve Ensler piece, Over It. Given the weighty material that preceded it, it provided a suitable ending to the event… but it’d be a stretch to say that it was an uplifting finale. Of course, it’s not meant to be… the topic is far too serious, too important, to try and glibly attach a cheery bookend. But it did manage to feel empowering… and that seems fitting enough. It’s hard to say this was an enjoyable show to witness, but I don’t regret having attended for a second.
(Footnote: I’ve just discovered that Eve Ensler assembled a book sharing this performance’s name; it’s available on Amazon, and appears to contain most (if not all) of the writings mentioned above. What you’ll miss, however, are the wonderful readings of those who took part in this performance.)