I am a director, playwright, and theatre critic with a Masters in Writing for Performance. You can check out my my portfolio and musings at www.samsaradunston.blogspot.com.au
The course of true love never runs smooth
The Adventures of Yoni 1 and Yoni 2 is one of the most fun, most silly, and most poignant and point making shows you will see this week in Melbourne. Presented at The Butterfly Club, whilst the show is not part of the Midsumma Festival, it certainly continues the themes and celebrations of the event and sits comfortably amongst the rest of the queer fun and commentary taking place around town.
Devised by Zoe Brinnand and Simone French, the themes of The Adventures of Yoni 1 and Yoni 2 revolve around the Bollywood (Hindi) film industry and riff off the Sanskrit word 'yoni' which can mean uterus, womb, vagina or vulva. Yoni 1 and Yoni 2 are basically two anthropomorphized vaginas.
Throughout the course of the 50 minute show, we see the blooming of love, the exploration of sex and desire, the move towards a committed relationship and then marriage. Wait, that's not right. This is Australia so they can't get married! What ensues after this realisation is the true core and heart of the piece and a testament to the depth of their love for one another.
French has brought a wonderful collection of Bollywood influences to this show. Jason Chalmers' costumes are delightful and provide a lot of scope for the performers, although I was disappointed that this was only explored in the first half of the show.
French has also brought a lot of fun Bollywood music and moves, combined with a healthy dose of Western dance tracks to keep this show moving along. The truly unique and genius aspect, however, is Brinnand's idea to not have dialogue.
The first Hindi film (1913) was silent - Raja Harishandra. By the 1930's sound made its way into the industry. The first film with sound was Alam Ara but even in those early days, the focus was on dance and music with not a lot of dialogue. The Adventure's of Yoni 1 and Yoni 2 mirror those early beginnings beautifully.
Whilst Hindi films went through an 'artistic' era after Independence in the 1940's, the 1970's saw a resurgence of commercial priorities so the melodramatic love stories with a focus on song and dance came back to the fore. These movies are about audiences feeling good and they make no attempt at a pretence of reality.
This too is a fun aspect of this show. I was exhausted when I turned up at The Butterfly Club, but when I left I was fully energised with a smile on my face despite some surprising content towards the end.
Shamita Sivabalan and Emma Jevons are both wonderful physical theatre artists with great mime skills. Jevons, in particular, has a true clown face with every expression of her body matching every tweak of the muscles on her face. She is the full embodiment of the moments she is exploring.
The Adventures of Yoni 1 and Yoni 2 is chock full of montage sequences which will have you roller coasting between gales of laughing and tears of tenderness. This is a nuanced work. It is full of fun, but with a serious question being put to us all about our 'Australian' values.