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

Like what you're reading? Support Seesaw.

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.

Past Articles

Read Next

  • Dayana Hardy Acuna as Giselle, Oscar Valdes as Albrecht with the dancers of West Australian Ballet in Giselle (2021). Photo by Bradbury Photography In the white tutu of the a Wili, Dayana Hardy Acuna holds an arabesque en pointe, leaning on the shoulder of Oscar Valdes who kneels in front of her. To their right is a line of white tutu clad Wilis. Romantic tale transcends the centuries

    Romantic tale transcends the centuries

    14 May 2021

    West Australian Ballet’s 2021 season of Giselle demonstrates that this 180 year old ballet still has the capacity to touch audience’s hearts, says Kim Balfour.

    Reading time • 7 minutesDance
  • Sophia Forrest and Darius Williams in 'I and You' A young man and woman embrace. They are sitting on a bed, with fairy lights in the background. She has a year on her face. The arrival of something special?

    The arrival of something special?

    13 May 2021

    In the high-quality double bill The Children and I and You David Zampatti hopes we might be seeing the emergence of a worthy successor to a long-lost, legendary Perth theatre company.

    Reading time • 7 minutesTheatre
  • Grace Ware, Find a place to sit, 2020. Image courtesy Five images of artist Grace Ware, posing with an inflatable fluorsecent yellow life-jacket type object. She is dressed in black and wears a black face mask. Nurturing passion, hatching fire

    Nurturing passion, hatching fire

    13 May 2021

    The 24 graduate artists showcased in this year’s “Hatched” exhibition have created a powerful and pensive testimonial to their generation, writes Patrick Gunasekera.

    Reading time • 7 minutesVisual Art

Leave a comment

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio