Perhaps my favourite component of #UsTwo is its craft. The production is full of beautifully rhythmic dialogue, which earlier on, while we are inspecting the performers’ childhoods, gives us this impression of imagination and innocence. I think this as a framing device couldn’t be more fitting, especially with how some of the stories and tales develop; I immediately consider the battle between the two adolescent sisters for the worst boyfriend story, which has intense moments of hilarity intercut with poignant punches to make the audience stop and consider the pressures placed on young women, by both men and society. This is done throughout the show consistently, with great poise, a balance between poeticism and rebellion; it’s here that I really appreciate #UsTwo as both theatre and feminism, as living poetry and a political reminder. This journey of reminiscence with the Delahunty sisters shows just how hard the women of today, and yesterday, have worked for rights, policies, and courtesies that should have always existed in the first place.
As an audience member, I love seeing performers work hard on stage: it makes me appreciate their commitment tenfold and always amplifies the energy audiences feel. This is important as the relationship is reciprocal; the more energy we have, the more energy we will give back to the audience. Both performers are constant bundles of electricity, navigating physical ‘skits’ and games with focus and excitement. One of my favourite physical moments would be the race analogy: drawing a line on the road and preparing to sprint into action. As an audience, we appreciated these moments even more when the performers would ask themselves, “is our time up”, “is it time for us to shut up?” This refrain continued to elucidate that it didn’t matter who brought them down, and it didn’t matter how tired they felt, because these fierce and determined women would continue to stand for themselves, other women, and what they believed in.
Isadora Lao leads the design for this production and the design capitalises on thought, metaphor, and detail. From the often warm and inviting lighting, sometimes bathed in more pastel colours (especially in moments of love, care, and innocence), to the symmetrical staging with single beds, cardboard-box inspired furniture, and little changing stations whereby adding a different piece of clothing becomes indicative of a new era in the women’s lives. Even the music, whether it is the women singing together or the rallying music (I immediately think of their reference to Robin Hood), perpetuates the show’s metaphoric nature. One stand-out example of the production’s detail is their pyjama costumes, which incorporate elephants in some way, shape, or form on the pyjama bottoms; my friend reminds me how it is the strongest female elephant who leads their tribe as its matriarch.
The design, physicality, and poetic dialogue combine to create such a lively and analytical space for these women on stage. At times, this means the punctuation, or intrusion, from Leason feels like a patriarchal metaphor, from some of the words resounding from her anyhow. Maybe? We are never really sure on the extent of her role. It makes me wonder whether it might make more sense for the punctuating voice to be disembodied or absent from the space if we’re going for metaphors here. Her role would benefit from a little more clarity, which would help appreciate, or even understand, her cog turning more.
#UsTwo could not have appeared at a more pertinent political juncture. An intergenerational lens, where we are invited to reflect on the lives of two women who might otherwise be overlooked in the wake of the #MeToo movement, reminds us that while progress continues, these inequities are far from resolved. In #UsTwo, poetry and defiance coalesce into a beautiful sixty-minutes where the performers work hard, allow us insight into their lives, and share with us moments where we laugh, cry, and rally. “This show is just one story”, we are told; we know there are many more, some similar and others different, some tamer and others more severe, but, perhaps frighteningly, we acknowledge that “all of it is true.”
#UsTwo is part of the 2020 Wellington International Fringe Festival, currently showing at BATS Theatre until tomorrow night. The phenomenal production is sold-out, so you may have to hunt down any tickets or try your luck on the waiting list.