The Imperial Hotel
reviewed 7th September
Well. I am not sure what I was expecting but it was definitely not what I got.
A Post-Modern Striptease is Irene’s first full-length solo show, built from a number of smaller development seasons. It is an experimental cabaret – not stripping but post-modern stripping - we are told in no uncertain terms. Nichola combines vignettes of comedy, song and dance in which she explicitly comments on herself as a performer, the choices she makes, and the reactions she elicits from her audience.
Nichola’s stage presence is sweet, and her comedic personality could be endearing. She seems nervous, and perhaps needs to log more hours on the stage before she will be fully confident in the pacing and delivery of her material. The funniest two moments are when she plays a little trumpet solo through her lips, and when she does bit on Bertolt Brecht that she finds so funny that she starts laughing at herself. In these instants the show feels light-hearted and effortless; however much of the rest is wooden, the dance routines rote-learned, the comic material a little too glib. It isn’t until she hops on the keyboard and starts to play and sing that she seems confident enough to relax. Nichola has a strong voice, and her songs have an off-beat Fiona Apple quality which is appealing.
The act follows a simple structure: we get a comedy routine, then a song, and then a strip dance. In the transitions between strips Nichola nips back behind a wooden screen to re-clothe herself, and we listen to instalments of a peculiar radio drama (credited to Sam Wade). In these interludes a little boy called Timmy is pushed ‘down the weir’ by his father before being rescued by a vigilante wolf. It is completely nuts, and completely unrelated to the rest of what is going on in the show – but kind of incredible for this reason. At any rate, I find this one of the most fascinating aspects of the piece, and am very intrigued as to the creative conversation that led to its inclusion.
In the end neither the weird weir story, nor any of the other diverse threads, come together in a meaningful way. The ‘post-modern’ conceit of explaining to the crowd exactly what we are seeing and how we are re-acting to it is abandoned for the last fifteen minutes or so, and Nichola accompanies herself on the keyboard singing a variety of unrelated tunes. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that something labelled post-modern fails to deliver on any really satisfying narrative or conclusion, but, I am.
A promising performer, but the show would benefit from more coherent content, and she needs to build up her audience rapport and confidence in order to really fly.