EFR - Reviews of Conference of Strange - Free

Conference of Strange - Free

Sat 13th – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Jade Symons

at 10:55 on 28th Aug 2011

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Rather than writing a critique of “Conference of Strange”, I feel as though I could just write the words “wow! Amazing! Incredible! Extraordinary! Clever!” over and over again. They were certainly the words running through my head at the end of the performance. It’s a terrible shame that this was the final show, because had it not been, I would have strongly urged everyone to see it.

The sole actress, Sarah Ruff, spent the whole performance reacting to a series of wonderfully unique images which were projected onstage - this was done astoundingly well, and her in-depth and faultless knowledge of the intricate timings suggested hours and hours of careful rehearsal.

The subject of the piece - a woman who has become a “cyborg”, manifests itself in an unusual and entertaining way, thoroughly surprising the audience. The “cyborg” element refers, in fact, to the contraceptive implant, and the audience embarks on an inconclusive, hilarious, yet touching exploration of “the point of having babies”.

It’s true that, bearing in mind both my gender and age, the storyline of the piece was particularly relevant to me. However, judging by the peals of laughter that frequently filled the space, the play enchanted every member of the audience, regardless of the timing of their respective biological clocks.

Highlights of the performance included the painfully (and deliberately) awkward body language of the fantastic actress, and the horrendous(ly funny) burst of song which occurred in the middle of the piece.

Regrettably, our star rating system only runs up to five - if there was a sixth star, I would have awarded it. A fantastic, thoroughly entertaining performance and I would jump at the chance to see more work by this company - “PatternFight Performance”.

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Alexandra Sayers

at 12:14 on 28th Aug 2011

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‘Conference of Strange’ is an apt name for Sarah Ruff’s one woman show about her transition from potentially reproductive female to machine-like ‘cyborg’. At its centre, the show deals with the place of women in our world: should reproduction and nurturing of children (or, as Ruff calls them, ‘creatures’) be the be-all-and-end-all of a woman’s life, or is there more to live for? This premise starts off quite normally: the first hint of multi-media we get is a phone call Ruff makes to her mother. This opens the show with real comic success: when Ruff asks whether her mother enjoyed looking after her, there is a pause at the end of the phone. Then the mother, in a fiercely dead-pan and disconcertingly honest remark, replies that ‘it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be’. This subversion of the expected is something that Ruff revels in throughout the piece. There is certainly a progression of ‘strange’ to her work. After the phone call, the real multi-media, and oddness, begins. Ruff explains how she wants to become a cyborg, giving a power-point presentation on reasons not to have children. Her slides are interspersed with wonderfully creative scenes involving Ruff being incorporated into moving animation. The best of these was Ruff’s demonstration of what it means to be free: sitting on an animated bus, screeching out ‘Born Free’, in the most horrific and decibel-smashing rendition, that makes the animated figure sitting behind her bleed copiously from his ears. What spark of inventiveness, to create such an off-the-wall and crazily individual demonstration of freedom!

Extra special mention should go to Ruff’s partner, who does all the technological side of the show. I have never seen such wonderfully weird images projected onto a power-point screen. The amount of detail and the impeccable timing of the changing shapes to fit with Ruff’s monologue was astounding. This impressiveness reached its peak at the end of the show, in which Ruff is turned completely into a cyborg. What starts as a small dot on her stomach grows into a mini-creature inserting bolts and cobs into Ruff’s abdomen, moving around her whole body, encasing Ruff in an angular, screw-jointed shell. It is terrific detail that makes the whole show. Teamed with Ruff’s constantly wide-eyed and baffled countenance, this is Free Fringe at its most enjoyable.

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