The show begins with our enigmatic and downright charming host for the evening, Hugo Grrrl, performing a short stand-up bit. He introduces the theme and asks us what fantasy troupe we belonged to as children (I was a witch, he was a fairy - no surprises there). His banter is on-form, relatable, easy to follow and well-informed.
To explain the event to the audience, Hugo talks about how many people regularly ask what Naked Girls Reading is; “It’s naked, girls, reading. Y’all should come to the show because you clearly can’t read.” Hugo is cheeky, but he’s also nailed the tone of the night in his hilarious facetiousness.
We invite our readers onto stage while chanting “I do believe in fairies, I do, I do,” and each body is welcomed with an uproar from the audience. Twyla DeVille, Michelle Burke and Hannah Pratt are our readers for the evening, and Hugo introduces them with energy and praise. Our first reading for the night is from the Scottish play, with the three bad bitches... I mean witches. Each of our readers recite a line or two, bringing the group together before their individual excerpts that make up the rest of the show. It’s a lovely way to begin, as we hear the familiar words of The Bard juxtaposed with the incredibly modern and forward-thinking tone of the night.
As Burke reads ‘The Real Purpose of Fantasy’ its author, Beth Webb, discusses the the reasons behind our fascination with fantasy. Webb proposes the idea that fear within safety is fun, and this sentiment seems to echo the sheer courage of this event.
Throughout the night we are transported through worlds of children's literature, famous fanatical epics and hilarious internet-sourced fan-fiction. As each excerpt is read each fellow performer listens attentively, and a favourite moment of mine is watching Hugo’s shock, horror, and excitement during DeVille’s reading of ‘He Put His Snake in Me (Harry and Draco Gay Fanfic)’.
A particularly tricky reading to follow is a lengthy section of Terry Pratchett quotes. Although they are taken from a particular book of his, sometimes they don’t make sense when read as a stand-alone section. Since the evening is based on literary achievements within the genre of fantasy, I completely understand relevance of quotes. However, I wonder if they could be used more effectively if they were read separately at different points throughout the show.
We spend time checking in with each performer prior to each reading, which adds to what is already a two-hour show. At times the readings don’t flow alongside each other as they contain different topics and target audiences. Due to the static lighting state and a somewhat unvaried musical accompaniment, it can be tricky to differentiate the tone between pieces, which makes it hard to feel drawn to or moved by any excerpt in particular.
Since the show doesn’t lend itself to a great deal of movement (with the performers sitting on stage throughout), a special moment is when Pratt stands to read a certain piece. In doing this we are provided with different levels and a change of scenery to grab our attention. I do not think the show would benefit from having each piece read standing, but having a change in the staging is certainly a breath of fresh air.
We finish the night with another reading by all three performers, and this time it is ‘A Monstrous Manifesto’ by Catherynne M. Valente. In the same manner of the earlier Macbeth recitation, each performer reads a few lines at a time. It offers a lovely, rounded conclusion to the night and a way for us to celebrate all three readers simultaneously.
Overall, Naked Girls Reading is incredibly fun. It is silly and comedic, but it is inherently political in nature and feeds every feminist’s hungry tum. It is a refreshing form for Wellington, and something that should be given credit for its inclusivity within the arts industry.
For more information on Naked Girls Reading and their upcoming shows, head to their Facebook page here.