25
Apr
13

Le Foulard

Le Foulard

Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

 24th – 27th April 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

This is not your ordinary one-woman show.

  

Le Foulard Lucy Hopkins

Lucy Hopkins is an extraordinary performer, and Le Foulard is an extraordinary show; the ultimate performers’ master class, and highly entertaining, especially for anybody who’s ever claimed the title of “Artist”… or who knows one.

 

It’s a chatty, ready-for-anything opening night crowd; prominent Brisbane theatre makers and theatre lovers , the industry peeps and artistic looking types. Sorry if I missed you after. I often run away, right back to the Sunshine Coast (especially on a school night!), and get up again at 5am for a walk on the beach or a bit of yoga before the new day gets away from me. More often than not I wish I could stay a while and see you at the bar! How about following the fourth and final Brisbane ADELE show UP LATE at The Judy tomorrow night? Alright! You’re on! See you after! (Note to Nim: I’m amused to be able to tell you that Hopkins made a point of distinguishing her ART SHOW, one of high art and genius – A GIFT TO US – from cabaret!).

 

I love the ambience as people settle and continue chatting. I lean forward, to the two women who had moved as we’d come into the space from their seats in the second row and said to them, as if I’d become my mother, “You’re very brave!” But then I realised, “Too late! Should have worn a belt as a belt and not a scarf as a belt over the Blackmilk!”. At some point, who knows exactly when or why (I’m not big on word counts or run times), the chatter STOPS. Everyone can sense that SOMETHING is about to happen.

 

IT’S EXCITING. IT’S EXHILARATING. IT’S LIVE THEATRE.

 

We can tell that this is gonna be GOOD. The lights don’t dim and yet Hopkins enters the intimate Turbine Studio space with a flourish created by her long silk scarf and triumphant manner. The scarf is her only prop and she might as well have been dressed by…me. On an only-black-will-do day, which is most days. Very black. Very French. Very ARTISTE.

 

This, ladies and gentlemen, is an art show, made with love by an idiot.

 

My +1 for the evening was my dear friend, artist Denise Daffara. I love what she has to say about the “made with love by an idiot” bit. I’m sure the idiot reference is something of an in-joke for artists; a dose of The Artist’s self-deprecating sense of humour, and quite possibly something that might come from an auspicious history of clowning training and performance; of letting go, taking risks and making uninhibited theatre! The brief for Hopkins’ recent workshop in Melbourne indicated as much.

 

Have you ever thought you’re a total idiot? Good news! You probably are. There’s a whole world of beautiful performance to be made if we can get in touch with our magnificent inner idiot, take a risk, follow our impulse and find the pleasure in being completely ridiculous.

 

Denise DaffaraBut it irritated Denise and I understand why. Why not try to reach beyond an audience of artists? Why not sell this show unashamedly to ALL? Not all art is for all, granted, but it might be worth repackaging Le Foulard to achieve ticket sales in slightly more diverse circles. I trust that perhaps Bridget, Liz, Robert, Ira Seidenstein or Mary Eggleston can enlighten us further. There were moments, Mary, when the main character, The Artist, reminded me so much of you. We have HAD these conversations! Oh yes! The artist’s one-woman company… ARTSOUL! Deliciously wicked humour, not just for a perceived elite (or indie or whatever) group of artists, in fact the whole premise plays on our assumptions about artists.

 

Anyway, Denise and I set out an adventure one day a few years ago to complete Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way together. I got stuck at Chapter Seven: something about perfectionism, falling from trees, reframing perceptions…still working on that bit! We generally catch up over cups of tea at The Silva Spoon, and Goddess Guidance cards and a bowl of fire in the backyard during a full moon ceremony. I know. You’ve seen all our catch-ups on Instagram (sorry Pinners, there ain’t much over there at Pinterest yet!). ANYWAY, recently I was privileged to take part in one of Denise’s sumptuous Creativetea sessions, which immersed me in art journalling and COLOUR. (Yes. I have issues with colour. I know. Another time…).

 

To be honest, I’m not sure either of us was entirely sure what we were going to see in Le Foulard. An award winning, successfully touring one-woman physical theatre type show created and performed by the #exquisiteclown Lucy Hopkins (always search the Twitter & Instagram hashtags before Google for quick hot topic tips!).

 

What we see is an incredible performer, who magically conjures four vastly contrasting characters, superbly studied, and effortlessly establishes a genuine connection with every single audience member (including latecomers…you have been warned! But then, Hopkins is so kind, gracious, respectful, patient and adorable, don’t worry! There are certainly no amateur-stand-up-night humiliation tactics going on here), even before an eye contact gag puts the theory into practice.

 

The characters are representative of those dissident voices that we – the artists, the humans – hear continuously, at first barely audible and then commanding more and more attention until The Artist cracks under the pressure of the cacophony. Or worse, amidst the very silence for which we yearn. Oh yes. We’ve all been there. To hell in a hand basket… and there’s a hole in the basket!

 

For a moment I wondered what it would be like to be experiencing Le Foulard NOT AS AN ARTIST. But we are all artist enough, we humans; creative enough and open enough to recognise the archetypes, and the sophisticated parodies of stereotypes at work here. And the show is clever enough, and entertaining enough to capture the attention of even the most creatively challenged! It’s clear that Hopkins has had some tough crowds in the past, but in the theatre spaces at least, for the ticket buyers at least, she is #WINNING (and so are we).

 

A couple of references, though they may seem slightly obscure; it would be remiss of me to omit the signs that seem to point my head towards various intriguing paths.

 

Remember the sister on her birthday night in Notting Hill? Yes? Well, she came to mind during Le Foulard!

 

 

And remember Nicole Kidman’s “naughty words” antics, and her Morticia sleeve motif in Moulin Rouge? Yes? Well, there’s a bit more than a hint of that here, in Le Foulard!

 

 

And are you a fan of Rowan Atkinson? Jim Carey? Le Foulard showcases Hopkins’ unbelievable array of facial expressions. It’s a big call but I’m making it. The woman has greater facial agility and a million more nuances across her repertoire of facial expressions than Atkinson and Carey put together. I’m awed by the intricacies of each mutable expression, as well as the sheer joy of a ridiculously over-extended fixed grin on the face, while the body moves from one shy-girl gestus to the next beneath it. Her movement is really sensational, down to the final flex of the toes of the upstage foot towards the ceiling. ATTENTION TO DETAIL, KIDS. INCREDIBLE. Each character could not be more defined.

 

 

AND how much do you love Edith Piaf’s famous rendition of Non, je ne Regrette Rien? Easily rivalling Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for the title of Best Song EVER, this brought the audience gradually, brilliantly to the same place at precisely the same moment, with not even the shuffling of feet or of hands repositioning themselves on laps to break the spell…until Hopkins herself smashed it with the English interpretation – line by line – of the French! And then, as her efforts to explain became more a search for deeper meaning, the tears that had run down my cheeks from fits of laughter made way for tears of aching sadness. Bizarrely, like the Superman rollercoaster at Movieworld, which I refuse to go on (I don’t do rollercoasters), this seamless segment of the show shot by but it felt as if we were caught in a breathless moment in time, and that moment surpassed everything else (except, perhaps for some, the poignant delivery of I Will Survive) in its exquisite shape, form, pace, pause, eloquence and heartfelt search for truth. That moment at the top of the track, even as you watch from below, before the carriage teeters and tips and rattles down to the finish of the ride without spilling any of its precious cargo? That is how I feel before embarking on an ordinary performance, let alone imagining taking on a challenge as great as this sort of show. Hopkins has truly gifted us with not only her outrageous talent, but also with her courage, her commitment to the art and the study of it, and that attention to detail.

 

 

Hopkins might as well have been standing naked on the floor because clad as she was in the typical acting training/performance blacks and ballet slippers that I could have put her in had she passed by my place on the way to the Powerhouse, nothing could veil her honesty and courage as a master performer. Even as each character came AT us, fully physically and vocally realised, at times so completely OTT that it was ridiculous (ridiculously funny!), we saw the humanness and normalcy of each, the inner critic and the nurturer, and the ongoing commune with a higher power, or a deeper truth. Finally, unsurprisingly, we see – well, we feel it, fully – the never-ending questioning from our greatest enemy. The destructive defeatist. The Artist, ourself, who can’t help but ask again,”What am I doing here?” Ultimately, it’s a devastating and completely satisfying ending. There can be no other. I’m so glad that changed, Jeffrey Fowler.

 

A note on standing:

 

This is a fearless performer in a faultless performance that is undoubtedly deserving of a standing ovation, however, I didn’t stand. Why not? Because a) I was still so completely overcome with emotion, and overwhelmed by the experience at the end of the show that I didn’t think to do so and b) because it feels odd to leap to my feet in a teeny tiny space like the Turbine Studio. Later, considering it, my inner critic seemed to be telling me that no one cares to see me standing anyway; “No one cares what YOU think!” And later still, my inner artist, my nurturer, my creative spirit guide whispered, “Don’t worry, she knows. She got that bit of love.” I tried to feel comforted by the words of my spirit guide, Sara…and then I got onto Twitter to tell Lucy how much I loved the show, in case she’d missed seeing it in my seated applause. As artists, we are not always really good at honing in on the little bits of love, are we? But it was clear that Hopkins received graciously, as the most talented and humble do, the appreciation afforded her via generous applause and the quick thinking of a couple of committed stander-upperers.

 

My face has never ached more and I have never been so entirely swept away by the performance of one woman in one small space. I wish I’d worn waterproof mascara and I wish I had tonight, tomorrow and Saturday available to live, laugh and cry through Le Foulard again and again and again. Le Foulard is so exquisitely crafted, honed and performed I doubt we’ll see the likes of it again this year (although I’m excited by the possibility that we might, especially considering the likes of Lucas boy girl wall Stibbard were in attendance and looking suitably impressed and inspired!). Look, this one’s a no-brainer. Le Foulard is a must-see for every artist, for every human who recognises their inner idiot artist. I hope, in future, it is billed and promoted thus.

 

Thank you, Lucy Hopkins, for reminding us to be the brave artists – the brave people – we know we are.

A note on Moy Sweetman:

 

Moy Sweetman Portrait by Jeffry FeegerUpon leaving the Powerhouse after the show, I discovered via social media that our dear Moy Sweetman, the founder of Frangipani Dreams, had left us much sooner than doctors had anticipated, after opting to step away on Tuesday from dialysis and step into the next phase of her awesome journey. Moy was too ill to go for a final swim at Noosa Main Beach yesterday morning as she’d intended, but 200 friends and supporters swam in support of Moy.

 

Remembering Moy has made me so much more grateful for the opportunity to have seen Le Foulard. And to have seen it with a friend who totally GETS IT. At times it’s easy to forget the friends who get us ARE STILL THERE. We get BUSY. CREATING. It’s easy to forget that we artists are all the same. It’s easy to miss experiencing the little (and big) moments together because the act of creating is sometimes so solitary. Both Moy and Lucy Hopkins are reminders that when opportunities arise, as artists, as people, we can miss out on the experience – due to fear or self-doubt or ego or the judgement we imagine might come from somebody else if we act on the creative impulse – or grab the chance and run with it, twirling, dancing, soaring into a place where we make sure we feel we belong. And it’s nice when that’s a shared space. It’s nice when you know there are other idiots artists there.

 

Lucy Hopkins – bio

 

Lucy Hopkins

Lucy Hopkins graduated from university with a degree in Fine Art, lived and worked in London for two years, then moved to Paris. She trained for 6 months in corporal mime, spent a year at the Jacques Lecoq school, then two years studying under Philippe Gaulier, who told her she was boring and looked like a sausage.

 

Since then, Lucy has created RawUs™, a play for two performers, toured France looking for love as one of a trio of clowns (Les Femmes En Voyage), directed clown trio The Gazpacho Brothers, travelled to Georgia twice to do her own mask-making workshops with children, spent a year training and playing with the Parisian improvisation troupe Zarbi & Orbi, worked in France and Denmark on Thomas Iratus, a new show written and directed by Lecoq graduate Kristian Husted, and wrote and performed a solo show, Impossible N’est Pas Français or There’s No Such Word As Can’t, which won the Prague Fringe Festival Inspiration Award in 2011.

 

In 2012, Lucy created and produced her second show, Le Foulard, which won the 2012 Prague Fringe Creative Award, and a 2012 Bedfringe Pick of the Fest Award. Le Foulard has been played in Paris, Prague, Exeter, Bedford, Oslo, Barcelona and London to enthusiastic response and critical acclaim.
The show is currently swishing across Australia where it was nominated for the Best Theatre award in Perth FringeWorld and won the Best Theatre Performer award and a weekly award for Best Theatre in Adelaide Fringe.

 

Lucy is based in Aubervilliers, a northern suburb of Paris.

 

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