Turning taboo on its head

Banging on the Door (Roz Pappalardo)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre

November 25

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“Banging on the Door” welcomes us to a little part of Roz Pappalardo’s life. The cleverly-titled (as it is revealed) work is a play with songs about her. The self-confessed 40-year-old Cairns arts worker (best known as one half of Queensland’s song writing duo, Women in Docs) who can sing a bit and play guitar was happy enough with her lot in life until her uterus had other ideas. Like a diary entry, the show unfolds in roller-coaster romp through a story of modern fertility, turning the tables on the highs and lows of the typically taboo topic.

It’s not a two-handed, through it could be, with someone playing the many additional roles in this segment of Pappalardo’s life. Instead, the seasoned musician herself assumes supporting roles as nurses, doctors and her boss, jumping in and out of the roles to great effect. Just as writing effective descriptions comes from attention to small details, so is the case with her characterisations, from a ponytailed radiologist to a dreadlocked anaesthetist, echoed also in clever character musical motifs such as a wonderful reggaed dialogue-set-to-music section.

Pappalardo’s singing voice is full of character and comedy when required, but also richly reflective too and powerful enough to fill the Visy Theatre space without additional amplification. Amongst songs of clever lyrics about IVF processes and bodily functions, the titular song is a catchy, comic highlight.

Clearly, this is a deeply personal show, but Pappalardo conveys a comfort in telling it, that provides an added appeal. This is a show grounded in its truth and presented without fancy sets, lighting trickery or costume changes, just Pappalardo, her story, her voice and a guitar. It is still a work in progress though, as indicated by the on-stage notes to which she refers. This means that it seems to take a little while to settle into its rhythm, but, even so, the show’s energy and sentiment still creep up on you during its hour-long duration. It’s funny, poignant and personal and already very good. Indeed, Pappalardo’s tell-it-as-it-is, irreverent storytelling style, and the characters she meets while navigating her IVF journey, give “Banging on the Door” a genuine appeal to hold audience interest through its hilarious humour and tender humility alike.

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