Pidge enters the foyer of BATS before the show, taking time to mingle with the audience. As she nervously pours herself a drink of water, she exchanges soft coos as we shoo her jovially. Tom Lehrer’s “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” plays as we enter the black Propeller Stage and Pidge perches herself in the audience. Stagehand Michael Trigg fails to lure her into the spotlight with Mt Vic Chippery chips as bait and only once the chips are unguarded does she muster the confidence to gobble down a mouth full. Now full, our new feathered friend greets us with a twitchy grin.
Kahui’s costume is magnificent. Giant grey and purple polyester feathers make up her wings. Kahui nails bird-like mannerisms, from the pigeon-toed walk to the shrill swaks.
Kahui is an impressive physical comedian. My teeth hurt watching Pidge carry a microphone stand on stage in her mouth (or beak!). A triplet threat, Pidge sings, dances and drinks through a series of comedic events.
Highlights include “dangerously awkward small talk” with the audience and a Love Actually homage. The musical numbers in particular were pleasantly surprising. A variety of music played for Pidge to shake her tail feathers to throughout. Pidge woefully delivers an acapella Friends theme song and a French jazz original about those cheeky five year plans.
The lighting and sound design successfully create the many platforms Pidge explores within the black box theatre. Dramatic spotlights accentuate her musings about art and what it means to be human. The combination of blackouts and intense booms feel like you’re watching a live Christopher Nolan trailer. The music and voiceovers take us through Attenborough-esque observations, excruciating casual workplace convos and an inappropriate children’s TV show.
The episodic structure was enjoyable because Pidge is able to clown around in many different settings and emotional masks. However, a stronger narrative would have tied the skits together into a more cohesive “creative escapism.” I left wondering what Pidge’s honest five year plan is. What are her dreams and desires? It would be interesting to see the relationship between Pidge and her frustrated stagehand develop further than it did. Their interactions were a hilarious transitional tool that could flourish into a dynamic character arch.
Along with the big questions of existential dread, Pidge asks us to reflect on what makes you you. Discard the masks society asks you to wear; be your real, ugly self.
If you like gingernuts, audience participation and misunderstood birds, don’t miss (A Smidge of) Pidge on now at BATS at 8pm until Saturday 1st September. Visit the BATS website to book tickets or for more information.