Tessa Waters @ Garden of Unearthly Delights – Campanile
8:15pm, Fri 13 Feb 2015
Tight planning bites me in the arse as I dash up to the Campanile from my previous show only to find access blocked by an over-zealous Gardener. “We don’t let in latecomers,” she said to me and another couple of people who turned up at the same time; “since when?” I protested, adding an unnecessarily snide remark regarding Garden shows actually starting on-time on opening night. “We’re pretty good at starting on time,” she balked… the statement left me mute with incredulity.
We were eventually allowed in after the opening musical number finished, and were greeted by a super-enthusiastic, heavily accented, and lycra-clad Tessa Waters, who declares herself to be “WOMANz”, a goddess of female sexuality. The accent is thick and hispanic(?), her dialogue sharp, and her control of the audience is superb: she quickly managed to coax the entire crowd up onto their feet to dance. I’ve talked before about my reluctance to dance, but WOMANz had me practicing the Running Man (amongst many, many others) with everyone else.
WOMANz has, at its heart, a strong feeling of empowerment. Behind the laughably bold and colourful presentation is a message of self-acceptance; however, the subtlety of this message may have been lost on the group of pissed women in the second row (seriously – who walks into an 8pm show with two bottles of wine?). But, as mentioned before, Waters keeps the crowd in check with her charm… even the recurring interstitial cries of “what’s happening?” keep their laughs going, and the “Art… In Your Face!” bit was sheer joy. Besides the crowd dancing, there’s a few other bits of interaction – Trudy in the front row allowed her breasts to be squeezed by an initially timid (then animalistically overjoyed) WOMANz, and a few other patrons served as good-natured marks throughout the show.
It’s a show that, in retrospect, feels light on content… but heavy on intent. And Tess’ exuberance and comic clowning abilities were superb, and she kept everyone in the crowd (which was a pleasing mix of young and old) entertained throughout. Sure, I felt uncomfortable (at times) – the dancing was terrifying before we got into it, and there’s always something a little scary about being a bloke on your own in a show so clearly targeted at women (though, it must be said, WOMANz contained something for everyone). But there were a lot of very happy punters leaving the Campanile after this show, and – hopefully – everyone felt just a little better about themselves.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) February 13, 2015