Dawber hails from Tāmaki Makaurau where the show originally debuted at their 2022 Fringe Festival – and such is often the case for touring shows, the audience is rather an intimate one! I do think this show needs a larger audience, and not because it puts Dawber off – it doesn't. However, it’s the kind of show that would benefit from more than just one or two brave audience members yelling out answers. In saying that, I wonder if Dawber could pull the reactions out of her crowd more at the top of the show? For example, in her entrance to a bold telenovela soundtrack, Dawber dances passionately under a spotlight of red lighting, I’m into it – but it’s also the perfect excuse to pander to us. Tell me to clap, to shout, to whoop, so we can party with you!
Dawber’s confidence is steady however, the choreography is precise and her presence is warm. The show has a clear structure, which in parts I enjoy, and in others, I wish she would try to break the mold. The projection at the back narrates the chapters of the show, and we are introduced to Professor (Frederico?) who casts us as his class for the evening. Each chapter is a different telenovela theme, love, money, conflict… Dawber flicks between the charming Professor Frederico and skillfully choreographed (and funny!) excerpts of a telenovela, in which she stars all the characters. “What can we learn about [insert theme here] from a telenovela?” is the non-rhetorical question posed by the Professor in each chapter. The Professor is Dawber at her best, I enjoy his quips with the audience, casting those more confident among us as their “favorite student”. This work of the professor and one-woman telenovela happens largely on the left and centre of the stage, Dawber then cuts off all theatricality and steps to the right to give a naturalistic monologue that weaves together the chapter’s theme. Leaping from the monologue, Dawber breaks into passionate and I presume telenovela-inspired dance, which takes me a few chapters to realise is an interpretation of the tale just revealed.
I like these monologues, they are conversational and have some memorable lines like, “I sometimes feel I would have better sex if I stopped apologising when I order a latte.” However, as my friend said to me on our way out, the monologues might be less jarring if the telenovela was used as a vessel and not an example. I would have loved to see these tender stories of familial relationships and the perils of being a 20-something interposed with the dance that follows. Eventually, Dawber does blur the lines as the show concludes, rapidly flicking between The Professor, and the telenovela scenes until her ‘real’ voice starts to force itself through the chaos. It’s an impressive display of talent, but I wonder if the concluding monologue could do with some trimming– it feels more like the beginning of many other stories than a concluding one.
I’ve seen a lot of solo shows in the past year, and it could be my youthful ignorance but it does seem to be the age of the solo renaissance! I like shows like these where the soloist isn’t trying to sell their life as the most relatable or most original story to grace the stage – they are just simply just sharing their own personal navigation of this big wide world, and entertaining us whilst doing so! Rich People Cry Too (And Other Lessons I Learnt From Telenovela) and its charismatic star, Lucy Dawber deserve a bigger crowd Toi Poneke! It’s on for two more nights on the 21st and 22nd of Feb– get tickets from the BATS Theatre website.