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Failure (Other Opportunities for Non-Linear Success)
Published on Saturday, 25 May 2013

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4 stars

The Nightingale (venue website)
22-24 May, 7:15pm-8:15pm
Reviewed by Darren Taffinder

 Warning: Contains strong language.
 Warning: Contains flashing lights.
 Suitable for age 16+ only.

Before the start of the show, performer Mary Pearson spent a few minutes talking to us about our health, and whether we’d spoken to our parents recently. As we climbed up the stairs to the theatre she asked us to each take a handful of beans to symbolise our failures. If I’d known in advance, I would’ve taken the lot; but I thought I’d go light and took two.

Failure is something we can all relate to. If we were successful all the time, life would be boring and our friends would hate us.  The real problem isn’t experiencing failure, it’s going too far to avoid it.

This is a strange hybrid show – a mix of performance art, comedy and self-satire. It’s certainly not afraid to poke fun at itself. There was one part when she pulled up all the men in the audience and had us fan and mist her, as she wriggled around on the floor in a bikini, while a mocking commentary played overhead saying dance was boring. Just in case this gives the wrong impression, it’s a family-friendly show – well, maybe for older families.

What I really liked was it came together in the end. Bits that were baffling in the beginning were repeated throughout the show until they made sense, or were put into different contexts that flipped them from a negative to a positive. One sequence I really enjoyed involved a loop machine with Pearson repeating sounds and words that initially sounded negative, but as the lopping became more layered turned into a positive.

Pearson is completely likeable in a brave performance. I’m speaking here as someone who wears jeans and a t-shirt to the beach. The beans as metaphor for failure is very well done, especially when she’s moving them around the stage almost like a Zen gardener, with her body shaping them into a circle or a heart shape.

Occasionally the show is a little too clever, and I would have liked a little more commentary, more of a sense of her personal relationship with failure. The show did require a bit of audience participation (I think I misted her very well, by the way), but the audience was slightly stand-off-ish, which at times felt a little uncomfortable. And it did end on a bit of an easy up beat. I follow my gym on Facebook, and every morning they hit you with a new motivational saying; I felt like I was getting my message of the day with this show.

Still, I currently have my two beans on my desk in front of me. I might pop them in some water and see if they sprout. But I also might just keep them where they are.

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