Melbourne Fringe 2016

Bombshells, Melbourne Fringe 2016

0 Comments 10 October 2016

Words by Fabrice Wilmann

Bombshells is a standout hit from the 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival. A poignant, lyrical, and droll exploration of what it means to be a woman.

Written by Joanna Murray-Smith, Bombshells is a play of six monologues each depicting six characters, first performed in 2001. Presented in a new format, emerging ensemble ROARE re-examine the roles of these six different women: the complexities of womanhood are laid bare on the stage for all to witness. A widow, a bride, a mother, a divorcee – these are all women, and while they share commonalities of perceived notions of ‘womanhood’, they are, more importantly, individuals with harrowing experiences to share.

Meryl Louise Davenport is a mother of three, tethered to all aspects of motherhood and wifely duty. Ingeniously, Meryl is trussed to the wall and can only move so far – can only achieve her goals in minute fractions. Her daughter keeps asking about the number of countries in Africa. But Meryl, exasperated, flustered, doesn’t know the answer. This makes me a bad mum, she thinks to herself. “I’m the reason for falling literacy rates. I’m the reason children don’t read anymore.” The frenzied pace never ends, this is her life every day, and as she goes to sleep and awakens the next morning, it all begins again.

Then we meet the Cacti queen, Tiggy Entwhistle, whose speech of adoring appreciation for the cacti turns into a quite-literal metaphor for her strength in the face of being left by her partner. Ruby Duncan’s performance in this role is gripping and nuanced, her artistry as sharp as a cacti’s needle.

Mary O’Donnell and Zoe Struthers are at opposing sides of the experience spectrum – one is searching for glory in a high school talent show, the other is a seasoned artiste who is gracing the shores of Melbourne despite all the odds against her. Mary, spritely and lithe in her leotard spandex, cat-eared ensemble, proclaims that without her the talent show would just be a show because “I’m the talent.” But when Angela McTerry dances to “O’Shaughnessy the cat”, Mary is stricken – she can’t dance to the same song as Angela. So she must improvise – for the show must go on, as Mary knows quite well – and what ensues is a hilarious hip-thrusting affair to the tune of the “Theme from Shaft.” Zoe – the wallowed and whipped diva – delivers a comeback performance that professes the bitch is back, and she’s proved all the haters wrong.

Theresa McTerry is the bride-to-be paralysed by stifling doubt. Does she even love Ted, or is she more in love with the dress? The dress, the dress, that’s all she’s ever dreamed about – with her dress fit snugly around her waist she is Pammy Anderon meets Laura Bush. Her words, not mine. But is that any comfort when she’s walking down the aisle and thinking about everything except Ted – doing the math and deducing she’ll get $215,000 in the settlement; lusting after the vicar, because compared to potplant-Ted he looks like Schwarzenegger. As the question bursting at the seam of her consciousness breaks forth – Do you regret it? she answers “I do” and realises her mistake. She is now a married woman.

And finally, there is the widow, Winsome Webster, who recounts to us a moment of ecstasy and fulfilled longing. Widowed for over a decade, she now offers her services to others, and finds herself reading for a blind man. Inevitably their attraction grows and Winsome, the 64-year-old widow, finds herself naked before him, her only tools are her wit, and her clitoris.

Bombshells is an exploration of identity and belonging. These women are bombshells, who are you?

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