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Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Theatre

Welcome to the pitty party

16 January 2021

Whether it’s your crowning glory or the fuzz of shame, Claire Coleman finds reasons to celebrate a woman’s body in Hair.

Hair, LadyBusiness Productions ·
State Theatre Centre, 15 January, 2021 ·

“O-h-h, your hair is s-o-o well styled!” she purred at me. I smiled in what I considered a demure manner and sat a little straighter in my seat. I know, I know, it’s all part of the show – but it’s how I’ve been conditioned to respond when a stranger compliments my hair.

This stranger was one of three pastel wig-wearing, Lycra-wrapped, kitty-cat-eared women inveigling the audience during the opening of the Fringe World show, Hair. Recent graduates of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Fiona MacDonald, Linnea Tengroth and Hayley Whisson are LadyBusiness Productions, a Perth-based female-focused theatre company.

With their arms raised over their heads to show off their unshaven armpits, they initiate the audience into a very different kind of “pitty” party: one where the body hair we cut or cultivate, dye or depilate is seen and celebrated. Meanwhile, audience members are invited to withstand the harsh light of the bathroom and look in the mirror at the often unspoken shame we sometimes feel about having the wrong kind of hair in the wrong kinds of places. Will we grow the shame out? Or should we apply a wax strip, count to three, cringe, and rip it off?

Fiona MacDonald, Haylee Whisson and Linnea Tengroth perform a series of vignettes in ‘Hair’. Photo: Kylie Bywaters

The show amalgamates stories, movement and spoken word in a series of short vignettes, and the sometimes uneven performance pace settles during its many relatable moments, which deal with such issues as procrastinating over booking a haircut and then having an almost transcendent experience at the salon, or discovering spiky regrowth in areas you’d just finished grooming.

The show’s comedic timing is consistently on point. From Rapunzel letting down her hair to a defiant personified bush, the reminders of the inconvenient consequences of keeping or removing hair provoked laughter – and at one point sympathy itching – from the responsive audience.

Ultimately, Hair explores serious topics in an often lighthearted and approachable manner. The naïve white person’s fascination with “exotic” Black and brown bodies is succinctly captured in the question, “Can I touch your hair?” Old wounds of rejection are made raw again when Ken evicts Barbie from the bedroom until she has shaved her pubes.

Amid the moments of resonance and laughter, this “pitty” party reminds women that their bodies, in all their hairiness and smoothness, their pleasures and pains, their perfect imperfections, are gifts.

‘Hair’ continues at the State Theatre Centre Rehearsal Room as part of the State of Play program at Fringe World until Tuesday, 19 January 2021.

Pictured top: Hairy or smooth? Fiona MacDonald, Linnea Tengroth and Haylee Whisson in ‘Hair’. Photo: Kylie Bywaters

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Author —
Claire Coleman

Dr Claire Coleman is a pop musicologist, choral conductor and musician. She trained classically in piano, but wrote her doctorate on nostalgia in indie folk, and continues to lecture remotely in pop music studies in Berlin and London. Claire compares the high of bullying strangers into singing to doing hypothetical illicit drugs, so watch out or you might end up an unwitting participant in one of her choral adventures.

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