Jess Love has written and performs a courageous solo piece that is one-part family history, two-parts circus skills, and three-parts humanity. Notorious Strumpet & Dangerous Girl is a postmodern mashup of circus, physical theatre, family history research, audience participation, genetics/science education, comedy, and raw human emotion. A personal testimony, and exploration of nature vs nurture, all wrapped up in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
The title of the show is taken from the report of the Providence ships’ surgeon, writing in his log during the journey to Australia about Love’s ancestor Julia Mullins. The numerous reports of Mullins’ transgressions provide a picture of a feisty and determined woman who sought escape from her conviction for theft, and deportation to Tasmania, in sex and alcohol. Discovering that Mullins was her great (x4)-grandmother, led to Love’s research—not only into her own family history, but into thinking about the DNA ‘lottery’ of life.
Don’t look away now, or think that this show isn’t for you. It’s funny, witty, honest, skilful and thought-provoking art.
Yes, there are ‘science-y bits’ (multimedia is mainly used to provide science education that even I understood…and the ‘Boozy Bingo’ was a very funny way of illustrating the DNA-lottery that can lead to a pre-disposition to alcohol addiction). There is history and academic research. And there is some very honest disclosure and raw human emotion...as Notorious Strumpet & Dangerous Girl interweaves Love’s story of addiction and personal decline—from illicit first nips of booze from the dusty family drinks cabinet, to a cocktail of drugs and alcohol leading to sleepless nights and blackouts.
But the show also features a range of very impressive circus skills—including disaffected and funny extreme hula hoop, hardcore dancing, trashy trapeze, spectacular skipping, and remarkable bottle-walking. As Love demonstrates, people can do amazing things. Including hitting rock-bottom and then working their way toward recovery, one step at a time.
Deadly serious, intoxicating and sometimes dizzying (each in more ways than one), Notorious Strumpet and Dangerous Girl is one of the most memorable shows I’ve seen in the last five years.
Verdict: Compelling. Brave, powerful, raw emotion—which entertains, educates, and enthrals. Hunt this show down.
Audience tip: 70 minutes, Powerhouse Theatre (18+. Nudity. Drug, sexual, suicide and alcohol references). There were only two performances of Notorious Strumpet & Dangerous Girl in the 2018 Wonderland Festival program (22 & 23 November, 2018—tickets $39 [$34 concession and/or groups of 6+] plus $5.95 transaction fee). Why not keep an eye on the website, and see what else might tempt you at the 2018 Wonderland Festival?
The reviewer attended the Friday, 23rd November 2018 performance (9pm).
Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.