Theatre Reviews: The Basement Tapes, Shirley Gnome: Taking It Up The Notch

As the title suggests, Shirley Gnome: Taking It Up The Notch is no show for prudes.

As the title suggests, Shirley Gnome: Taking It Up The Notch is no show for prudes.

The Basement Tapes
By Stella Reid, Jane Yonge, Oliver Morse and Thomas Lambert, directed by Jane Yong
1 Clyde Quay Wharf, Wellington, 7pm, until February 14
Shirley Gnome: Taking It Up The Notch 
Bats Theatre, Wellington, Propeller Stage, 8:30pm, until February 16.
Reviewed by Ewen Coleman

Most people dump their unwanted junk, which they are not prepared to throw out, in the basement, until they move on or die, when it eventually must be sorted.

Such is the case with Stella Reid, the actor in the fascinating new play The Basement Tapes, where she finds herself alone in the basement of her grandmother's house in the town where she grew up.

Through a lot of what at first appears inconsequential and often hilarious dialogue, sifting through her gran's junk, including ordering a pizza, she finally finds a tape recorder and tapes, as we expected she would by the title of the play.

Stella Reid stars in The Basement Tapes.

Stella Reid stars in The Basement Tapes.

READ MORE: Canadian cabaret comedy singer Shirley Gnome in Wellington for NZ Fringe Festival

All this preamble though would appear to have a purpose, as it sets up an air of mystery and intrigue that underscores the tapes when they are eventually found and played, revealing a rather gruesome event.

All of this is considerably enhanced by Reid's energetic and full-of-life performance that is at the same time fearful and scared and totally engaging under the dim lighting.

And although the final tape has the audience totally captivated, more could be done in structuring the earlier tapes to be more engaging and flagging sooner where the revelations are going.

Mention must be also made of the evocative setting of the concrete shell of an apartment that adds much to the production's aesthetics, but it is a difficult venue to locate, so go early to find this must-see production.

Another woman, this time from Canada, Shirley Gnome, also gives a terrific performance in her show, Shirley Gnome: Taking It Up The Notch, currently on the Propeller Stage at Bats Theatre.

Labelled as "the Queen Troubadour of black-comic sex balladry", she is a sort of country-singing Patti Smith mixed in with bits of Madonna and Lady Gaga.

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And as the title suggests, this is no show for prudes, her songs, all original and very clever, are raw and explicit, which she makes no apology for.

Yet they are anything but offensive, such is the way in which she not only sings her songs, with an exceptionally good singing voice, but also presents herself with her banter between each number.

Confident as not only a performer, but within herself as a person, she covers many taboo subjects, providing social commentary on topics that many think but never speak about.

With her garish pink outfit and cowboy hat for the opening that she changes a couple of times, Shirley Gnome is a consummate performer that is well worth watching.

 - Stuff


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