REVIEW: Squirt (Auckland Fringe)

[Poetic Liberation]

A shadow dashing between curtains is the only signal that Squirt is nearly ready to start on a late evening at Q Loft. That and the tables with sex toys set up onstage. To be precise, one table with sex toys and the other with books and menstrual cups from Wā Collective – I’ll leave it to the reader to judge the more exciting. The intimate crowd shift in their seats, many pointing discreet fingers at the sex-toy table and whispering to their neighbour as they try to discern what some of the more outlandish ones do – such as the device one audience member eloquently later on names the ‘nipple sucker’ after performer Kate Spencer asks if anyone knows what it does.

Kate Spencer is no stranger to the microphone as a producer and performer for Wellington Feminist Poetry Club, Poetry in Motion, Speakeasy Sessions and Naked Girls Reading. She describes herself as a comedic poet – a “comet” – and she certainly shines like one. Illuminated by dappled light, in a bold red dress and “400 dollar shoes”, Spencer commands the attention of the small crowd, playing with full-house-worthy spark and charisma. Starting as she intends to go on, Spencer begins by reciting a poem and talking about how much she loves sex. Whilst the show doesn’t deviate too much from these two activities, Spencer manages to create an entertaining and engaging show, and has the audience wrapped around her little finger as she jumps from hair to vulvas to periods to Sylvester Stallone (all the regular topics surrounding sex and the body!)

In spite of what some would consider the risqué subject matter of Spencer’s show, Squirt is actually an excellent and friendly introduction to the world of slam/performance poetry. Spencer begins the show by explaining some of the in-rituals of the poetry scene and by putting her crowd at ease, effortlessly creating a natural rapport with the audience. She freely addresses members of the audience, sometimes breaking her flow to comment on how much she loves an audience member’s expression or response, yet – in a first for any theatre show I’ve intended – makes sure to confirm the audience’s consent on said audience-performer interaction at the start of the show. Spencer creates a welcoming and safe space for the audience whilst she discusses topics which could have been exclusionary if introduced by less-capable hands, shifting away from hetero-normative perceptions of sex and making a point of including trans and non-binary folk within her discussions around sex and the body.

While undoubtedly a poetry show, Spencer’s comedy is also outstanding. She is uproarious, and has the audience shrieking with laughter within the first few minutes. Charming, self-effacing and a little bit – okay, a lot – naughty, Spencer is reminiscent of fellow British comedienne Miranda Hart – if Hart stood up on Poet’s Corner and waxed about sex for an hour to the Westminster locals. Her rhymes stand out, flowing effortlessly, with gems such as “beef curtains”, “menstruation station” and “wank-tuary” bringing tears to this reviewer’s eyes. Like a sexy Dr. Seuss, with bawdiness the Bard would bow his brow to, I will be the first to start the campaign to ‘Bring Kate to Comedy Fest!’

Although very funny, Squirt dives deeper at points, delving into topics such as censorship to the sexualisation of the naked female body. One of Spencer’s unique selling points is the fact that she is a church-going Christian who openly and passionately talks about sex and sexuality. This seeming disparity is what drew me to the performance initially, and – although it is touched on – I would have loved for Spencer to probe these topics more deeply (no pun intended). After buying her book post-show (bring cash!), I discovered the poem “(un)resolved dichotomy” which seems to reference this balancing act, and wish there was a section on it within the show, as Spencer is wholeheartedly wading in taboo territory, and such open conversation could be enlightening and supportive to audience members who connect with such a journey.     

Squirt is ultimately a feminist show about sexual liberation, and Spencer cheers such liberation by providing the audience with free sponsored sex-toys and moon-cups, encouraging the sexual health and freedom of the individuals present. Behind all the humour, the bravery behind Spencer’s words and unashamed performance is honest and inspirational. It is great to see, in particular, a brilliant and self-described “curvy” woman get up and talk unabashedly about sex, love and the body. An excellent start to the Auckland “Minge” Festival, Squirt is informative, empathetic and downright hilarious – revolutionary at whatever stage you are at in your sexual journey. 

Squirt plays Q Loft as part of Summer at Q and Auckland Fringe, 25 to 29 February, 2020. 

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