Lucy Hopkins: Le Foulard

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

In this physical theatre show, Lucy Hopkins has set out to parody the pretentious world of high art, but struggles against a slippery slope not to fall into the trap herself.

Le Foulard means ‘the headscarf’, a large version of which Hopkins twirls around her body to become her different personalities, beginning with the pompous Artist herself, who has created a sort of one-woman collective called Arts Soul (say it aloud).

The characterisation is achieved through over-dramatic, over-enunciated speech and wild, theatrical hand gestures. Her pliant face contorts into grotesques too, while her elfin frame, clad all in black, strikes deliberate postures, her spindly arms seeming to take on improbable lengths. Subtle, it ain’t.

It calls to mind Rowan Atkinson’s early mime character (‘my body is my tool’), without the verbal flourishes that made him so funny. With the right contortion on her face, she can even look like him. In another moment she calls to mind Peter Sellers, carefully intoning Beatles lyrics in the guise of Richard III; but here it’s I Will Survive that gets the po-faced treatment.

Once it has been established that this is, indeed Art, and so treated with reverence (as if!) we’re introduced to other characters –  the flamboyant, sexual Spaniard and the meek but perky optimist – who begin to interact with their creator, and eventually challenge her authority.

Hopkins gestures to express these characters are always huge and exaggerated. Perhaps that’s what they have taught her at the acclaimed Parisienne clown schools where she has trained, but it also telegraphs the comedy too loudly. And it’s a joke that wears thin over an hour.

Her talents are not just physical, there are some wry lines here that perfectly capture the self-centred world of a certain type of performer who waxes lyrical about the ‘great tsunami of meaning in their work’. But not quite enough.

To get the most from the show, you probably need first-hand experience of The Arts yourself. Certainly her take on dance, mime and luvvidom seemed to strike a strong chord in some quarters, with one woman gushing on the way out that this was the best thing she’d seen and it would stay with her forever.

For me, it was a mildly amusing idea that became irritating as the over-the-top gesticulations outstayed their welcome. Still, horses for courses...

Review date: 14 Apr 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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