SAY NO MORE
.Twenty six women. Three Countries. One Wedding. Directed by Catherine Fitzgerald. Musical direction by Pat Rix. Presented by Tutti Arts. Meeting Hall. Adelaide Town Hall. OzAsia Festival. October 25 – November 11 2018. Bookings. www.ozasiafestival.com.au
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
Every now and again I am privileged to review a show that I regard as special. Say No More, presented by Adelaide company, Tutti Arts, is such a show. Not knowing what to expect, I enter the Meeting Hall of the Adelaide Town Hall to discover church architecture, festooned with fairy lights and bridal decorations along the walls. At the stage end, women in white play their recurring theme on gamelan, keyboard and and percussion. After a while, women in assorted wedding dresses enter to form a briadal bower through which they pass to three stages set on either wall and at the back of the stage. One of the brides, already seated in her wheelchair at a round table in the hall slides to the floor and slowly drags herself up the ramp to a wheelchair at the front of the stage. It is the first sign of the courage and inner fortitude of the women, who range in disabilities and those who support them during the performance. On the stage another “bride” dressed in black acts as a narrator and signer throughout the show.
From the bride in the wheelchair on the stage comes a gloriously angelic rendition of the gospel wedding song You By My Side. It is the song of a dream, the longing for a happy marriage, the blissful destiny of those who desire to be married and have a family. It is a song sung at Indonesian Chinese weddings and epitomizes expectation of happiness in marital bliss. It is an expectation shattered by the experiences of many of the women from Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia whose stories are told as monologues by the various women. The show becomes a communal affirmation of shared experience, What emerges through the monologues is the chronicle of shattered dreams and embittered disillusion, generally at the hands of male aggressors. Expectation charts a pathway to subjugation in the accounts of domestic violence, rejection, intimidation and insecurity.
But say no more is no self-pitying anthology of oppression. It is a powerfully moving and thoroughly poignant expression of solidarity and support. Performances, carefully, sensitively and imaginatively directed by Catherine Fitzgerald are honest in the true sense of ensemble, and the resilience and determination to be true to oneself are not only inspiring but joyously celebratory. Every monologue, carefully reheared, speaks not with the theatricality of the disassociated actor, but with the truth of each woman’s shared understanding. It is not a denial of desire, but an embracing of self assertion, and the power of community. I am transfixed by its genuine individuality by women with varying disabilities or those in some way emerging as survivors of physical or psychological abuse. It is a profound and heartwarming testimony to empowerment.
I take a quick look at three videos, exploring similar themes and view the installations about the hall as I leave, enriched, uplifted and hopeful that the issues addressed by this sensitive and very special performance will make a difference. I am conscious that his shared experience by women of different races and religions asserts a struggle that is sadly not new but there is hope that if each woman, able or disabled, Indonesian, Malaysian or Australian can discover the gift of empowering community, then their lives and the world can be a better place. Say No More is a show that should tour and be seen by all.