Green Porno
Isabella Rossellini @ Her Majesty’s Theatre
3:00pm, Sun 16 Mar 2014
My response when Isabella Rossellini’s name was mentioned at the Festival Launch was only just a little toned down from my John Zorn response: I have adored her (and, to a somewhat lesser degree, her acting) since first encountering her in Blue Velvet. As a result, I had actually already seen some of the Green Porno short movies that were released at Sundance in 2009; that Rossellini could create something so… eccentric was of great interest to The Guardian.
After a late night (featuring a somewhat refined Gorilla/Gorilla reprise) and a busy start to the day (how many of you went to the Double Shot! Unley Coffee Fiesta? Or checked out the Made in Unley Exhibition?), I arrived at Her Majesty’s a little… well, frazzled, but that was tempered by the knowledge that this was my last Festival show. I had a quick chat with David Sefton in the drinks queue (whilst grabbing some bubbles for my perennially-late friend), and bumped into Helen – “Hey, nice picture!” she exclaimed, referring to the Sunday Mail story featuring a couple of photos of my cranky self (photographer Mike Burton and the Garden Freaks were all really lovely during that shoot). There were a few more impromptu chats with familiar Festival faces, and it just felt like wonderfully social start to The Final Day.
I’d grabbed front-row tickets nice and early (well before Green Porno became the first sell-out season of 2014’s Festival), but that’s always a bit of a problem at Her Majesty’s: Row A is below the floor level of the stage, meaning we were constantly looking up. But as soon as Rossellini takes her position behind a podium mere metres from me, any potential neck soreness was completely justified: she owns the description “elegant beauty”, and her presence – and cheeky smile! – is completely enveloping.
I was, without a doubt, unreservedly smitten by her charm.
She could have stood mute onstage for the following eighty minutes, and I would have been happy; but Green Porno is devoted to the study of the sexuality of animals. Having evolved from Rossellini’s series of short movies, some of the text is familiar; indeed, during costume changes, Rossellini plays some of those shorts on a large screen at the back of the stage.
Costume changes? Oh yes. In much the same way as she uses extravagant costumes to highlight the animals she discusses in the videos, Rossellini appears in weird and wonderful costumes onstage: the hamster was a particular delight, and there was even a bit of a knowing moment of self-deprecation when she started linking animal behaviours back to man by dressing as… well, a man.
And there was a fair bit of association with human sexuality, but without getting smutty at any stage; Rossellini kept things classy, even emphasising the importance of emotion in human sexuality (gasp!), and created a real personal rapport with the audience by speaking frankly about her own life (I sensed the woman sitting to my right scowling whenever Rossellini mentioned her husband).
Green Porno was more of an (extremely) entertaining lecture than a theatrical performance… but the emphasis was firmly on the entertainment. Was there anything to be learnt here that wasn’t already available through her videos? Well, no – but Rossellini proved to be an immensely charming (and gorgeous) presenter, quite happy to ham it up in her weird and wacky costumes, and her material was an engaging blend of fact and funny… and, on the basis of her description of barnacle sex, there’s hope for me yet. As a quirky full-stop on my 2014 Festival, Green Porno really delivered.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 16, 2014