REVIEW: Flaps Retouched (Bits and Pieces Ensemble)

Review by Rachael Longshaw-Park

Bits and Pieces Ensemble

[Flaptastic]

If you didn’t get to experience the laugh out loud and fiercely proud all female show Flaps last year then thank your lucky stars because the ladies are back again, clad in all pink, and raising the roof once more. Flaps: Retouched offers Auckland theatregoers another look into the squirm inducing hush-hush reality of living with vagina as a cis woman. The cast bring back some favourite skits, some extended, and some touched up, and adds a few new numbers to their repertoire.

It’s no secret that the subject matter of women’s intimate parts and functions has long been snubbed as too crass or too crude for women to talk about, and often for men to hear about. You only have to cast your mind to practically any female comedians struggle to find material that doesn’t “alienate audiences” (an astoundingly hypocritical idea that for some reason has been lapped up and accepted for years). Men are more than welcome to chat about anything from their bowel movements to masturbation, so why is it uncouth when women do it? Well, the Flaps ensemble show us that women damn well want to talk about them.

Created by Emily Campbell and Brie Hill, this time around the show feels less structured than before, but not to its fault. They’ve ditched the overarching through line, instead relying on the strength of the comedy and base concept to carry us through. Grace Augustine and Ava Diakhaby stand out as clued up and talented performers, well attuned and a joy to watch. This is especially true when paired as a duo: the return of their office worker feud scene receives a warm reception and highlights the woman against woman narrative that infiltrates most women’s lives. Across the board the commitment and talent of the actors is admirable.

Overall the show feels slicker, despite the last number needing a little more rehearsing, and the tone feels playful and cheeky. Speaking of cheeky, this time around the girls bare all for a quick moment and spend most of the show knickers out and proud, and due to the nature of the piece this feels playful and innocent rather than sexualised. Perhaps this is because we know the show was by women, but nevertheless it’s refreshing.

It’s exciting to see an all-female show that talks specifically about female biological issues come back from a sell-out season to to be on track for another sell out season less than a year later. It’s proof that talking about vaginas does not alienate audiences, but rather creates a buzz and a curiosity that people flock to see.  If periods make you squirm that’s okay, not everyone can handle bodily fluids, let’s face it most of us don’t have to deal with any bodily fluids but our own*, but taking away a women’s right to talk about her body because it makes you uncomfortable is not okay. Flaps Retouched is bold and unapologetic in its honesty about women’s bodies and their bravery in bringing to light these conversations and confessions only adds to the changing attitudes towards what women can and cannot say – for the better!

*In fact, there are multiple phobias around bodily fluids. For example: Menophobia is the fear of menstruation. Look it up – fascinating stuff!

Flaps Retouched plays until 8 April. Details see The Basement

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