Write because you want to, not because you have to.
Claire just wants to fit in, just like the rest of us
As part of the much anticipated Adelaide Fringe Festival, the celebrations kicked off early when I was honoured to score a couple of tickets to the preview screening of the play A Woman On The Edge at the German Club. A one-woman musical run by Claire Dawson, this play treats its audience to a range of scenarios from Claire's life, which is seemingly full of drama, ridicule, hilarity, and spirituality. After all, what happens when a lady in Liverpool finds herself on the brink of a mid-life crisis? End up on a spiritual quest towards self-discovery by journeying all the way to the other side of the world in Australia, of course!
Upon first hearing the title of this show, I must admit that my mind instantly thought of the one-woman monologue show on the TV series FRIENDS - is this show going to be about when she got her first period and about how "divorce is a four letter word"? Nope, safe to say it was nothing like that! As Claire mentions in her play, she just wants to "bear my less-than-perfect life out through this show" and so she did, so eloquently! Be it her voice that could move mountains, her penchant for the loud and well-chosen costumes that best bring out the vibrancy of each act, or her own life experiences that shaped the course of this play in a manner that would woo audiences, as well as also give them serious stitches from laughing so hard!
What instantly captivated me was how meta and raw her performance was, particularly when it came to topics around her failed relationships, her career standstills, and her (and most of our) complicated era of high school. True to her genre of being a musical, Claire shares with us her incredible talent of putting her vocal chords to work, where she sings the classics as well as originals in notes that you cannot help but fall in love with. And when you really listen to the lyrics, the words seem to naturally encompass all the woes and worries that we as adults face on a scarily daily basis. As Claire aptly says, "it wasn't all sunshine and wallabies" upon leaving her life in the UK to move over to the land down under.
While there is a chronological structure of events that is colourfully presented to us through her music and acting, there is a beautiful sense of chaos that all seem to fit together. There are moments where you feel like you're in an English comedy show, acting as the audience who provide the laughter in the background while humorous acts take form on stage. Think of cheap (but brilliant) stop-motion animations in the background, coupled with back-up singers who are versions of different people in Claire's life (all played by her). There are subtle Doctor Who-like comedic undertones that just work so effortlessly for the purposes of this play!
At the same time, Claire has this natural ability to tone it down and make us as the audience aware of the fact that she is going to express herself on a more serious (and soulful) note. You are deeply moved upon hearing her speak about what all she's seen and undergone. Like most people, Claire seems to use the medium of comedy to cope, but it's such a therapeutic method of seeing life from a positive perspective. It's refreshing, it's "uplifting".
Caught in the act! (Photo courtesy: Claire Dawson - official Facebook page)
Writer and director Rod Anderson has truly showcased his talent and charm by casting someone as perfect and as real as Claire Dawson. She loves engaging with the audience, who in return, provide her with the very fitting response of utter enjoyment and a sense of compassion that makes you want to reach out to her in a deeper sense.
If you are one of the lucky people who go to her show, be prepared for 70 minutes of pure, unadulterated laughter, coupled with a genuine feeling of mutual frustration and eventual accomplishment at Claire's attempts (and successes) towards establishing herself as an independent woman. Also, if luck is your on your side, you may even become a part of the show (even if it's just for a couple of minutes)!
A Woman On The Edge will be available for viewing at a couple of locations, including the German Club on Flinders Street in the CBD and Salisbury Secret Garden at the Salisbury Institute.
Here I am, in a foreign country...trying to fit in and find some happiness" - well, Claire, you certainly don't fit it because you are a unique individual, a stand-out, with impeccable talent! And your show was a massive success on preview night. We hope you can find happiness in this moment and make the most of your time with us during Adelaide Fringe.