This is For You is an intriguingly titled one-woman performance by Brigid Jackson, appearing at LaMama, conceived by both Jackson and dramaturge Adena Jacobs.
Obviously inspired by the photographic work of American Francesca Woodman, this is an earnest piece of theatre with a 1990s performance-art style. Woodman’s work, from about 1975 to her suicide in 1981, engenders what seems to be about an equal amount of reverence to disdain. Her slightly surrealist style is relentlessly self engaged, with many images being of her own nude body, appearing and disappearing, distorted or angelic. Depending on your aesthetic and your politics, Woodman’s work is either representative of a self obsessed, self destructive young woman or is representative of intimate self-portraiture in which a dialogue between male and female gaze is explored. I’ll leave that one up to you.
This is For You has a performance-art style. With no dialogue, Brigid Jackson recreates many of Woodman’s still images live on the stage, and those images are definitely the strongest part of this performance. In doing this, Jackson is extending still moments for the gaze of the audience, displaying some of the effort and control intrinsic in the creation of such photographs.
The performance is accompanied by Kelly Ryall’s sound design, which fills the space like a second character. I am always very impressed by his work and This is For You is no exception. The sound design is complex and evocative, enhancing the performer’s work. The set design by Maria Sirpis and lighting design by Katie Sfetkidis are also both strong. I was pleased with the choice to have the performer appear to operate the show’s sound and lights. Thematically it fit nicely, I believe, with the idea of the performer controlling the way in which she is watched.
The feature holding this show back is unfortunately, I believe, the performer herself. Although clearly earnest and committed, to maintain the focus of the audience through a show of this style, and it is only 50 minutes long, the performance needs to be much more compelling, dynamic and to connect with the audience. She seemed a little tired. Thematically, it is also not always strong enough to maintain interest during the more visually repetitive moments. For example, the scene focused on Jackson’s back had little to maintain audience attention.
This is For You has chosen to represent art that is either self absorbed or is an exploration of the female gaze, to put it basically. As a play, This is For You also fits in to one of these two categories, which one, I feel, will need to depend on the viewer.
La Mama presents
This Is For You
Venue: La Mama | 205 Faraday Street, Carlton
Dates: April 30 to May 11
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