Photo - Heidrun Löhr
It seems highly ironic to me that in reviewing a show about self-expression, I initially didn’t know what to say. My first impression of No Door on Her Mouth was that I wasn’t really sure what happened. My second was that I had just seen some of the best lit pears in theatre history. Having thought about it all day, and debated whether or not I needed to see this show for a second time, I think I’ve finally managed to articulate my reaction.
No Door on Her Mouth was devised and performed by Dawn Albinger, as part of her Contemporary Performance doctorate at Edith Cowan University. Drawn from personal experience, it is an exploration of, “how some women collude in their own oppression and silence, and of the human capacity to make self limiting choices”.
Her companions on this exploration are two differing representations of womanhood; the Diva, Albinger’s “icon of unbridled, expressive womanhood”, and the Handless Maiden from the Brothers Grimm, who is mutilated by her father and wanders the earth mute, searching for nourishment. She finds herself in a pear-orchard, and from their branches, finds sustenance.
Working from these foundations, Albinger, in collaboration with director and dramaturg Margaret Cameron, has shaped an episodic and minimalist three-part journey of discovery, in which one woman travels through time and space, struggling to find the balance between her own Diva and Handless Maiden, between articulation and oppression.
There wasn’t much dialogue, or traditional narrative plot per se. Instead, there was an orchard, delineated by pears hung from the ceiling. There was poetry, opera, song, movement, red tape, handsaws and doorways. There were beautiful sound scapes and image scapes created by video artist Sam James. The lighting design by Geoff Squires delightfully supported Albinger’s work, and produced some ‘how did they do that’ moments of intrigue.
What you got from No Door on Her Mouth was impressions and images; of emotion, the effort we encounter in finding and listening to our inner voice, of receiving love and acceptance, even within ourselves. Albinger was an accomplished and accessible performer, who had such a piercing gaze that you almost felt her looking directly through you. In the final chapter of the journey entitled ‘The Orchard’, peace was found, and it came so quietly and unexpectedly, and performed with understated excellence by Albinger that it took me by surprise.
Despite this, there were only a couple moments where I felt a really strong connection with the piece, and understood what it was being shared with me. The most memorable one saw Albinger transition from opera (Diva) into earthy song, which gradually became a kind of high pitched keening. The success of that moment for me was it seemed to represent the best and most succinctly Albinger’s focus; the struggle within us all between expression, confidence and despair.
So ultimately, I suppose what is being offered by No Door on Her Mouth is an opportunity; to join Dawn, the Diva and the Handless Maiden on a journey, and somehow, between the red-tape, the singing and the pears, find some meaning and connection for yourself. Even if it’s only fleeting, like mine.
No Door On Her Mouth
Written and performed by Dawn Albinger
Venue: The Blue Room Theatre
Dates: 26 October to 13 November 2010
Tickets: Full $25 | Conc. $20