For those that have seen Julia Croft in If There’s Not Dancing in the Revolution, Then I’m Not Coming, you can think of Power Ballad as its angrier, less-forgiving sister. Back again after its season in the Auckland Fringe (reviewed by Nathan Joe), Power Ballad is fundraising to go all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe.
It is intentionally difficult to fit Power Ballad into any box as it constantly shifts and subverts your expectations of what a theatre show should be. It wrestles within the space between theatre and performance art, and with no clear narrative or characters, veers away from anything conventional. Instead, Power Ballad presents feminist discourse and social truths through the magic of Julia Croft’s incredible performance and some iconic power ballads. It’s refreshing to see this counter-culture approach to theatre in Auckland.
Croft and director Nisha Madhan’s ability to explore the relationships that exist within a performance space add a set of deeper layers to the show. Fleshing out performances to this degree is often overlooked in the construction of theatre, leaving some shows feeling two-dimensional, luckily for us Madhan and Croft are fast becoming pioneers in their field. The opening sequence of Power Ballad demonstrates an investigation of the body and the performance space. We watch enraptured as Croft discovers her surroundings using all but her hands. Croft feels her way around the stage and proceeds to experiment with the ways she can interact with the microphone. It’s a good twenty minutes until we get to hear our performer speak and every moment screams for our focus. Later, Croft explores the relationship between performer and audience by infiltrating the audience space and incorporating the audience in her own soundscape.
Once Croft does speak she barrages the audience with a contradictory breakdown of “facts” versus “feelings” that garners a lot of laughs. This focus on words is key to the show. Madhan and Croft manage to manipulate and crack open language, casting a critical lens over it’s power. This is theatre – strong, feminist theatre – cleverly crafted to point out the inadequacies of our language when we attempt to demonstrate something outside of the patriarchal system. Yet, as serious as this sounds, Croft’s presence and stage craft allows for laughter, irony and joy to blossom in the theatre, and altogether creates a show that makes feminist discourse palatable and enjoyable.
Power Ballad may be theatre, but not as we are accustomed to. So, get involved and challenge yourself, because creators like Madhan and Croft aren’t going anywhere fast (except to Edinburgh).
Power Ballad plays until 17 June. Details see The Basement.