REVIEW: Herstory @ Fringe

Words by: Freya Hall

I really wanted to like Herstory. It promised a ‘fun, skilled and sexy hour of raunch, narrative, dance, aerials, magic, interactive projections, puppetry and short film.’ It boasted to have sold out seasons in Sydney and Melbourne. It claimed that Imogen, the one-woman hostess and performer, was Burlesque Queen of 2012. It tempted audiences with 14 historical impersonations of the world’s most notorious femmes.

I know what you’re thinking, ‘that sounds amazing!’ but alas…

The whole show was inexplicably narrated by Marlene Dietrich – I only know this because it says so on the Fringe website. It wasn’t explained very well at the show and the excruciating delivery of the accent did not make it obvious. I thought she was meant to be Polish. I was wincing the entire time. No one laughed.

There are so many other things I could complain about but, to be honest, I receive no pleasure in bashing small-time Fringe performers. In short, I didn’t see fourteen impersonations – I can only recall seeing five. I don’t know if the use of a hand puppet for under 30 seconds during a dance justifies the claim of ‘puppetry’. There were no interactive projections – they were just projections. And I only saw fleeting moments of dance, raunch, and burlesque.

The shining moment of this performance was her first impersonation, that of Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton – aka ‘The dingo’s got my baby’ lady. Imogen did a strip tease to the tune of AC/DC that chronicled the tale of this woman as she spiralled into the depths of insanity, culminating in her murdering her own child. It was dark and humorous and subversive and interesting. I don’t know how she managed to make this theme sexy, but she did.

Afterwards Imogen explained that this performance depicted the vilification of Lindy, it depicted how people saw her at the time and how many still see her as a lying, murdering, villainess today. I wish all of the characters were given this sort of contextual explanation and reflection. Instead, there appeared to be no coherence in their portrayal.

In short, this show needs serious editing and refinement; it was difficult to follow and there were many boring moments. However, I concede that the concept, chronicling the stories of famous femmes through strip tease and burlesque, is amazing. I hope to see Imogen back next Fringe once the concept has been refined.