EFR - Reviews of Blonde Compassion - Free

Blonde Compassion - Free

Sat 13th – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Jade Symons

at 10:50 on 28th Aug 2011

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As I was running down the road to Princes Mall, out of the corner of my eye I spotted a woman, on a yoga mat, in the middle of the street, in her underwear. “Strange”, I thought to myself, and carried on to the venue of “Blonde Compassion”. However, when the lights came up and the protagonist (played by Mahny Djahanguiri) bounced onstage, with a gratingly cheerful and brash American accent, it became clear that I’d not seen the last of the strange woman - or of her underwear.

In fact, after an hour of the actress performing mind-boggling yoga moves barely three feet away from me (still wearing the aforementioned underwear - and often a pair of high heels for good measure), I felt as though I was more familiar with her body than my own.

Endless expanses of insanely flexible, naked flesh aside, the piece was actually quite funny in places, even without the inevitable laughs which come hand in hand with onstage nudity. Both Mahny and her many-faced onstage companion, Nicholas Rutherford (who should get some kind of award for the world’s fastest costume changes - and for the world’s most hideously disgusting mullet wig), were brimming with energy, for the whole hour.

The script, regrettably, was not quite consistent and coherent enough to make the performance thoroughly enjoyable - there was a random attempted suicide halfway through, and an equally random spray-paint attack, neither of which were ever really discussed by the characters. Also, the male characters weren’t developed enough over the course of the story. Whatever the message of the piece was supposed to be, the outcome was a somewhat garbled plea for us all to embrace life (I think).

The faults of the script, however, did not detract from the performances by the actors, who tried their hardest to entertain and amuse the audience - and I have to say, they often succeeded.

The insufficient nature of the script means that I don’t feel I can award this piece more stars, but the quality of the acting was very high - particularly in the case of Mahny Djahanguiri.

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Julia Chapman

at 12:07 on 28th Aug 2011

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I am of the belief that everyone should try yoga. Similarly, Mahny Djanhanguiri’s quirky black comedy Blonde Compassion is worth trying, however I can promise no such similar results. Djanhanguiri plays a clichéd shrill, materialistic American woman named Shri-Shri who brings her eight-step enlightenment program to the UK, only to find that she has more than eight steps to another borough of London, never mind spiritual insight.

To a certain extent, Djanhanguiri was conscious of her own absurdity as she pranced around the stage scantily clad and obnoxiously shrieked greetings at the audience, however at times she just went over the top. Shri-Shri struggles against low class numbers and an angry gym manager in her attempts to enlighten the Brits, all whilst coveting Balenciaga handbags and fraudulently tricking her students into giving her money. Struggling to make her mark on the UK yoga business, she stumbles over her own shallowness and finds karma too formidable an opponent to get away with her ludicrousness.

Oddly enough Blonde Compassion is not a one-woman show, though it easily could have been. Nicholas Rutherford played multiple characters, which at times was handled too clumsily not to confuse. Playing Freddie, a love interest that Shri-Shri meets whilst hyperventilating on the tube, Rutherford’s understated sweetness stole the show and gave enlightened food for thought to both the audience and his new friend.

Freddie grappled for humanity in a world where people stare straight ahead on tube and go to great lengths to avoid those around them. While his more enlightened worldview certainly had merit, the paradox of the yoga teacher with the eight-step enlightenment program being outrageously unenlightened was too unsubtly unfolded.

Blonde Compassion was as sunny as the Salutations until it took an unexpectedly dark turn. When Shri-Shri is mugged and emerges onstage covered in blood, a sinister secret is revealed that is highly unforeseen. This seemed incredibly anachronistic and required more of a lead-up. Dramatically speaking, the plot lacked development, although the premise itself had promise. The frequency of scene-changes was also very frustrating.

Djanhanguiri had a good grasp of humour when she would speak to her imaginary class members while actually addressing members of the audience. Shri-Shri’s performance of yoga postures showed off her incredible flexibility without being a boring yoga demonstration, and her tantric flows were very funny. Her acting was incredibly natural and she had a wonderfully charismatic stage presence, which carried the show and compensated for a lack of a well-written script.

Blonde Compassion is a little too ridiculous but is nevertheless entertaining and even touching at times. With a lack of grip on reality, Shri-Shri takes her audience on an unusual yoga adventure, just not quite all the way to enlightenment.

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