Brought to Fringe by Annabel Harrison Productions, with an all-female cast and crew, ZIP IT is a powerful new theatre production that, in a determined and self-assured manner, leads its audience through a hazy blend of emotional highs and lows.
Packed full of striking emotional shifts, ZIP IT explores the distressing way in which stories of domestic violence are deconstructed for mass consumption and media entertainment. Making a cleverly constructed critique of TV chat shows, in particular, the performance demonstrates how a zealous demand for true-life stories, which can be whittled down into nifty “make-over moments”, has distorted our responses to shared traumas.
Simply put, the show follows two best friends, Sally (Rachael Kingsland) and Corinne (Hester Cox), as Sally attempts to leave an abusive relationship.
The twist is that this story is told through the lens of a TV chat show called Belinda – after its hosts Bee (Bel Harrison) and Linda (Caroline Adebayo). As a result, the audience is subject to a rollercoaster of jarring transitions between two larger-than-life, faux-delighted entertainment hosts, and the increasingly downtrodden and despairing Sally.
Unafraid to lean into the dark humour which exists in the transitions between the two, ZIP IT unapologetically blends raw, gut-wrenching experiences with a slick and self-aware humour.
At the heart of the play, is a collection of emotionally driven performances by a very talented cast. Writer and director, Harrison also gives a highly captivating performance as Bee. Perfectly satirising the eccentricities of chat-show personalities, with her wide-eyed expressions carefully following the narrative unfurling on stage.
At her side, Adebayo confidently performs Linda with a distinctive edginess. Both Kingsland and Cox (who is also the producer and assistant director of the piece), perform the roles of Sally and Corinne with emotional dignity.
Taking the brunt of the performance’s emotional outbursts, the two give highly realistic performances, which add a careful counterbalance to the play’s more surreal television backdrop. Also a producer and assistant director on set, Maya Wilcocks brings comedic energy to the performance, with her energetically fast-paced portrayal of Corinne’s Mum, as well as a brief stint playing a policewoman.
A key aspect of the performance, which further made it stand out, was the heavy use of choreographed movement sequences. Accompanied by sound and lighting design by Natalia Izquierdo, these moments provided brief respite between the high-energy scenes.
One slight improvement though, would be a greater layering of sound and musical elements in these moments, which often felt somewhat muted. This would also help heighten the impact of silence when used intentionally later during a cleverly choreographed piece depicting women’s marches and protest.
Overall, ZIP IT was an incredibly engaging theatrical performance, which was handled delicately, but not without robust, dark humour, topics of domestic violence and the desensitisation of an entertainment media transfixed with a desire for emotional personal stories.
ZIP IT showed at theSpace @ Niddry St – Upper Theatre (Thrust) August 22-27 at 14:45.
Image credit: courtesy of Bel Harrison, provided to The Student as press material.