REVIEW: Stupid Bitch Wants a Puppy (Auckland Fringe)

Review by Cynthia Lam

[Embracing our Inner Bitch/Witch/Goddess]

Stupid Bitch Wants a Puppy is inspired by writer and performer Waldron’s “sheer frustration of hitting the late forties and being relegated to the Death Star for aging actresses”. This one-woman show offers the audience a kaleidoscope of snippets of women’s lives, that range from a published author whose marriage has ended, an exhausted mother, a woman in an abusive relationship, female ‘villains’, to portraying herself. Through the use of a dark draped cloth and standing stage lights, Waldron deftly manipulates her stage as she morphs into different characters.

We are first introduced to the character of Barbara Briddock, the author of ‘Help! Help! Help! Handy Tips for a Hassle Free Life’. Barbara tell us about her life after her husband, Doug, left her for a younger woman, 25 year-old Tracy from Amateur Dramatics. She puts on a face of bravado and speaks in a loud confident voice to relay to us how she has dealt with the break-up, going through a ‘plastering phase’ when she plastered everything in the house, including Doug’s clothes.

The next character we are introduced to, is in contrast, seemingly meek and shy. She shows us some figurines/dolls she has made from painted wooden pegs, and starts playing with them like a child. She shows us a ‘family portrait’ with dolls faces, and starts introducing her family members with random information and humorous anecdotes: ‘She’s wearing a G-string but she’s really good at karaoke.’ 

When Waldron plays herself, she uses her natural voice to relay key moments in her life. These were the segments I enjoyed the most. These included a trip from Tauranga to Wellington, where she encounters her deceased grandmother’s ghost. She speaks emotionally about meeting a healer, who brought her back from the brink of exhaustion. The locals though, accused the healer of being a witch and threatened to burn her house down. 

Snippets of her life related to her acting career are also integral to this show: including hurtful comments she has overhead: ‘She’s quite deranged, but she’s quite good’. When she went to an audition for an ‘older woman’ role of between the ages of 35 to 55, she met with a director whom she had not seen in 20 years. She noticed how his face ‘dropped a bit’ when he saw her, commenting that he too was older, more pudgy, bald, but still gorgeous. Yet the power difference was not lost on her: ‘he’s on the other side of the table though’. 

The different ‘roles’ that women play or are expected to play are shown through the projection of five real-life ‘female villains’, in contrast to the ‘ideal’ image of Queen Elizabeth II. The photos of five well-known female figures who have ‘fallen from grace’ are projected and their vital statistics, star sign, and ‘crime’ are discussed: these include Tonya Harding, an American former figure skater who became embroiled in controversy when her ex-husband orchestrated an attack on fellow rival Nancy Kerrigan, to Filipino First Lady and politician Imelda Marcos, famed for owning over 3,000 pairs of shoes and for illegally amassing a multi-billion fortune together with her husband. We are then shown a large photo of Queen Elizabeth II in her younger years, and Waldron is standing behind the photo, trying to ‘break through’ this idealised version. I guess most women are neither total villains nor saints, but embody aspects of both and most likely inhabit a space somewhere in-between.

Although the show is not meant to be linear in narrative/structure, instead with all the segments tied together with a common theme, I felt that I was pulled into different directions and emotions sporadically (such as jumping from a comedic light-hearted segment to a tense one about a woman trying to escape her abusive husband). I wished that the ‘journey’ I was taken on with Waldron allowed me more room for the information to sink in, and that some of the issues were explored in more depth. All in all, the strength of this performance lies in the charisma of Waldron herself, morphing into the different characters with naturalness and humour. The confiding and playful tone she adopts with the audience is also spot-on. I can still recall Waldron’s triumphant and beaming face in her final scene, when it seems, she has conquered her fears and fully embraced her inner witch. 

Stupid Bitch Wants A Puppy played at the Auckland Old Folks Association as part of Auckland Fringe 1-3 March, 2020. 

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