REVIEW: Bad Mood (Basement Theatre)

Review by Cynthia Lam

[Collage of Womanhood]

As artist in residence for the Basement this year, Bad Mood is Tallulah Holly-Massey’s third and final work following Mammoth and Tender is the Night.  I had watched Mammoth earlier during the year, and was excited to see how Holly-Massey’s final work would play out.  Performed by four distinguished dancers — Kelly Nash, Nancy Wijohn, Zahra Killeen-Chance and Lara Liew — Bad Mood is an intimate performance that presents a collage of various female states of being.

The show begins with a beautiful play of lights that make me feel as though I am at the bottom of the ocean looking up through the gentle waves towards the sun.  The spot of light then moves, and the audience’s gaze follows — right, left, up, down — producing a rather playful effect.  Nash begins the dance, her face covered in a translucent black veil adorned with golden leaves.  She eventually unveils and moves as though she is being buoyed around by waves.  Her dance is ‘interrupted’ by a loud piercing scream, and Wijohn enters as if from a horror movie, torch in face and full of fear — the effect is rather comic: I was warned upon entering regarding ‘flashing lights and B grade horror tropes’.

Different facets of being a woman are presented — Killeen-Chance and Liew first appear as ‘assassins’.  The assassins hold two table knives, wear large sun hats and polka-dot veils, and move around showing us some martial art-like moves and karate chops.  This sense of humour and ‘relatable-ness’ of the performers are what I enjoyed about the show.  When Nash tries to hold some elegant dance poses with the other women supporting her, it is all rather clumsy and her softness reminded me of our own vulnerability and the desire to please.  With the performers wearing casual everyday clothes and sneakers, it gives me a feeling that these women could be ‘someone like us’, and not some far-fetched aesthetic ideal.

Each performer brings a different energy to the dance movement and they work well together as a group, as a duo, and as individuals.  Each has a moment to lead, whilst the others work around them.  I savor the lines created, and how all the space is utilised including sliding up against the walls.  Liew provides a mesmerising moment when she leads a movement with the others shadowing.  The more theatrical and dramatic moments are mainly provided by Wijohn who is striking in presence and performance.

Bad Mood presents different states of being a woman — fearful, angry, hysterical, gentle, pleasing, vulnerable, breathless, attacking, surrendering — yet I wanted more.  I wanted it to probe deeper and have me leaving the show feeling more of an impact. Bad Mood is an intimate and gentle exploration into the different facets of being a woman, all presented with a subtle sense of humour.

Bad Mood plays Basement Theatre until 10 November. 

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