A bird’s eye view on modern life
By Joana Simmons
“Street rats with wings,” “flying vermon,” and “a nuisance” are some words that come to mind upon the mention of pigeons. NZ company Hank of Thread brings us (A Smidge of) Pidge; a one-woman show for this year’s Melbourne Fringe that takes a peck at the existential dread we all feel from time to time in our modern lives. It strives to ask the hard questions, such as: “Am I doing the right thing with my life?”, “Why do embarrassing things always happen to me?” and “Why does everyone hate pigeons?”
Clad in a felt feathery pigeon costume, Sherilee Kahui embodies the unsure, insecure nature of these commonly found but rarely admired birds, scratching around at scraps of rubbish on stage and cooing at the audience. With a loose narrative thread, clowning, comedy, storytelling and voice-overs are used to weave together the ideas that make us brood in our everyday modern lives. My favourite was the clever voice-over infomercial selling five-year plans, and her realistic look and humorous portrayal of the masks we wear. The most memorable, and definitely uncomfortable moment was Kahui almost sculling a complete bottle of cheap white wine in just three goes. Throughout this, Kahui commits to showing us a spectrum of emotions and internal monologues – some hitting uncomfortably close to home.
The ideas in this show are very important messages and worth getting into a flap over. I felt the delivery of these however, needed more theatrical pizzazz to have a long-lasting effect and really move us, the audience, rather than fly over our heads or not properly land. The program mentions that this show has been workshopped in different formats, and based on Saturday’s show, there are still some tweaks that could be made. The moments in the show sound and movement were great: the ‘Five Year Plan’ song (by Ian Fraser) had clever lyrics but the tune and vocal style didn’t best suit Kahui’s voice. I wonder if in a bigger space the pigeon physicality would work more successfully, as some of the movements more comedic choreography – big flapping waddles and such. Written by Kahui and Jimmy Sutcliffe, and directed by Jane Yonge, this show overall has some wonderful creative elements, and while I was hoping for some more pigeon puns and witticisms or contrast in language used for different vignettes, more drama or dynamic could really give this promising work wings.
Flight of the Conchords, Boy, Hunt for The Wilderpeople, Rhys Darby and other famous Kiwi comics teach us a lot about the smart subtle dryness that happens in black comedy, and Melbourne Fringe is a tough nut to crack, especially for international or interstate artists. (A Smidge of) Pidge almost filled the room on Saturday night and left us with some real things to think about. Works like this find their way to brilliance by having time with audiences, so getting along to Fringe shows like this is not only supporting artists, but art itself – and that is very coo…l.
(A Smidge of) Pidge was performed at the Fringe Hub: Arts House Parlour Room from 26-30 September for the 2017 Melbourne Fringe Festival.
Check out upcoming shows by Hank of Thread at https://www.facebook.com/hankofthread/