Courtney Rose Brown
Nelson’s Refinery warmly welcomes one of the last shows from Pat-A-Cake Productions tour of Where the Wild Woman Is, with a fully packed out theatre, as extra chairs are hastily added to already long rows. Where the Wild Woman Is, is a One woman show that is devised and performed by Ingrid Saker. Winner of ‘Best Actress’ and ‘Edgiest Show’ in Nelson Fringe 2016.
We enter into a pre-show of Saker interacting with the crowd, adopting a monkey like physicality, with clowning behaviour. At times, pre-shows can be jarring, creating confusion about whether or not the show has already started, or if as an audience member, you really have to pay attention to what is happening or not. Saker’s interactions however, create a relaxed atmosphere, where before the show has already begun she has introduced the idea of audience interaction, where everyone is game to participate. As the house lights dim, she has the audience leaning forward on their seats, fully engaged, as she is enchanting to watch.
Visual metaphors were executed throughout where such things as the male gaze, presentation, mental illness and sexuality were explored (these often involving interactions with the audience, in what Saker played up, giving them full control over what she would wear. These were powerful, especially ones that explored mental illness, my favourite one being when Saker used the set effectively and cleverly to shape a prominent metaphor by rethinking about materials in a novel way. Tuck’s use of turtles, outlining Saker’s body and face, was complemented by Johansson's soft music. Saker’s slow movement in her attempts to rise from the ground, held down by an unseen force, was emphasised by a simple knocking of her fist against the ground, every time she failed to rise. The struggle and persistence of the character, took my breath away as her strength was admirable (also, Saker’s physical strength needs to be commented on, as I was in awe from her spending a large portion of the show in a squat position). However, this sequence was one that was introduced quite late, considering it was an important aspect of the show, and at times was a little repetitive. In saying that, the first few times it was performed, I was completely captivated, especially when water was incorporated to the movement.
One thing that Pat-A-Cake Productions strives to do with their work is to spark a conversation about it afterwards. Having been to other discussions after their shows, they have at times, been slow to take off, but this was not the case for Where the Wild Woman Is. The discussion afterwards was narrowed down to ten minutes, was filled with a range of voices and opinions flowing between each other, each person eager to share their own experience of the show and challenging others’. It wasn’t until this discussion that I realised that my opinion (although not unique) did not seem to be the frontrunner in the room. My observation of the piece was that Saker’s character was going through a journey of depression, whereas others expressed to them she was back in the womb and in a different reality with the same strength of belief. This also was a beautiful reminder of how in physical performances, the interpretation is open, where each person can have a completely unique and individual experience.
Saker’s establishment of eye contact with the audience and direct interaction, lead many members of the audience to tears, explosions of laughter (noted particularly with older audience members with her interactions with a teapot), as well as through moments of delight and surprise. I was onboard with Saker through her entire journey, which is one of self-discovery, as the audience alongside her, explore the triumphs and tribulations that arise, in challenging societal pressures as well as internal struggles in the questioning of what it means to be a woman and a wild one in that.
Saker’s presence onstage is undeniably captivating, her mixture of vulnerability and strength is a highlight, where the story that is presented is one that is tenacious and empowering.
Where the Wild Woman Is, will reach the shores of the North Island in June in a ‘secret CBD location’. Make sure you don’t miss it Wellington!