Overall, the scenography blends together seamlessly, and the decision to set up the sound desk on stage is a great one. I am haunted by the moments when sound designer Matt Asunder brings in a track that is somehow both lyrical and pounding to back the scenes with the tight puppet (more on that soon). I’ll disclose that my favourite thing about BATS is the dome light, and I’m always sad when it gets neglected. Seeing it used to create a lightning storm (complete with thunder and witch cackling) is incredible, and it might be the best use of it I have seen to date. I can’t fit all the scenographic elements I love into one review, so those of you who have snagged tickets should count yourself lucky that you get to see it for yourselves. Everything about the design of the show has me fizzing.
Having also seen director Rosie Glover’s previous show Don’t Wake Me Up early last year, there is a certain quality to her shows that tells me they are a product of her brain specifically. They are dreamlike, tactile, visceral, abstract, fluid. Everything feels like raw thought. You’d Look So Pretty If is no exception. It follows a monologue structure that is intercut with strange and wonderful movement-based scenes exploring beauty standards, gender roles and violence against women. It asks the question, what does it mean to be feminine and, more importantly, who gets to decide? The monologues are powerful and feel personal to the performers. Part of me would like them to be more connected, but another part of me also likes the way this show finds so many unique ways to express its ideas. Maybe that’s a balance for the cast to find if they ever do a return season (they should). The strongest parts for me, though, are the girls’-sleepover-turns-Frankenstein scenes where the performers stuff pairs of tights and tie them into a body they can puppeteer. It is the perfect metaphor for forced beauty standards and stripped body autonomy.
You’d Look So Pretty If might be a little out there for some people, but I am overjoyed with it. It’s thrilling to see someone use their MFA show to really let loose and experiment. There are so many tiny moments from the show that I am still dissecting and reading into, wondering if I am overthinking them and trying to create meaning that isn’t there. I think that maybe that is the point.
You’d Look So Pretty If is part of the Six Degrees festival – Te Herenga Waka, Victoria University of Wellington’s theatre MFA showcase. The season is now sold out. For more information about the show, please visit the BATS website.