Lycra love

Boyle and Waters in Leotard (debase productions)

Metro Arts, New Benner Theatre

December 9 – 18

Anybody who has persevered through sweaty struggle to pull on a leotard will be immediately in awe of the premise at the core of debase productions’ “Boyle and Waters in Leotard” which sees performer/creators Bridget Boyle and Neridah Waters sharing the stories behind a rainbow of vintage leotards of all shapes and sizes. From their entry to the stage, clad in their theatre nudes, the talented duo proceeds to put on a range of sequinned, bedazzled, feathered and often very ‘80s garments, and the result is simply sensational.

The homage to the humble leotard, presented in an encore season by Metro Arts serves not only as a tribute to the skin-tight one-piece garment, but the truth that lies underneath its sometimes absurd layers of over-the-top adornment. And it’s a truth that is apparent in the range of different women presented as part of the ensuing vignettes, from early appearance of Brighton-esque dance mums, Anna and Jo, increasingly hyper-aspirational in the rhythmic banter back and forth in defence of their daughters’ honours. An assortment of stories is seen from there, cresendoing with a duo, presenting their contrasting talents at a Regional New South Wales competition, which gives audience members the glorious juxtaposition between suggestive dance routine to Warrant’s risqué ‘Cherry Pie’ and an amateur recorder performance to perhaps transport us back to our own screechy school experiences.

Punctuating such scenes are interviews with women of all ages sharing stories of what leotards have meant to them, giving insight into the insecurities as much as the joys that that the garment can bring, which works in nice balance to the frivolity of colour and movement otherwise on stage.

This is a highly physical show with, under Lucas Stibbard’s direction, an energy that never wanes. The manner with which both performers change their body language, movement and voice ensures that their characterisation is distinct as they jump between roles. Indeed, both performers show incredible versatility through their often quite nuanced depictions, such as Waters’ straight-faced restraint as a daughter in musical accompaniment to her mother’s overtly flirtatious birthday party performance of Ginuwine’s ‘Pony’. Waters, in particular, is a pocket-rocket of energy from her early body-shaking patter-song share of the realities of life as a cruise ship entertainer to her time as Tracey, giving us a hilariously hyperbolic blow-by-blow recount of how she single-handedly saved every aspect of her dance school’s performance.

The often over-the-top ridiculousness is also platformed in the show’s diverse amalgamation of theatrical styles; from slapstick and exaggerated illustration of commedia dell’arte to undertake of theatre exercises to help with listening and focus, there is a whole lot of metatheatre to layer the funny and, along with its often euphemistic word play, emphasise the cleverness of its script.

With nostalgic mentions like the performances at Expo 88 et al, there is are many moments in which to lovingly rejoice in this joyous razzle dazzle celebration of performance, body positivity and glitter. And while the stories that accompany the leotards bring with them an undeniable hilarity, there is also an essential honesty and an ultimately uplifting message that elevates experience of the show to something truly special, interpretive dance routines and all.

Photos c/o – Jade Ellis

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