Monday 22 February 2016

Pee Stick review

Annie has just pee'd on a stick. And now, locked in her bathroom, has 45-53 minutes to ponder if her life is about to completely change or not. Written and performed by Carly Milroy, Pee Stick is a humorous and playful cabaret at how we deal when things in life don't go according to plan.

Despite a story of a woman waiting to discover if she is pregnant or not been told in every way shape and form, what set this show apart, was Milroy's decision to situate it in 1987. We are in a cute nostalgic world where there are no mentions of iPhones and the Internet but floppy disks and CD-ROMS! It also helps in raising the stakes on the outcome of Annie's pregnancy test, as the social stigma of a single mother in her 20s in that era was far more significant than what it is now.

Another great story device of Milroy’s is that we never know the identity of the person with whom she has had sex, nor the circumstances leading up to the encounter. He is barely even mentioned; it's irrelevant. Instead, Annie contemplates how her life will change with a baby and how to ensure she is able to provide the best possible life for her child (which may include moving in with her mother).

While the thoughts and fears she has are justified and more grounded, it's when we enter Annie's imagination, and meet a number of people in her life, that things get interesting. Milroy does a great job in bringing to life the supporting characters in Pee Stick, but none of of them are more enjoyable to watch than Annie's mother. From the few times she appears, Milroy is able to convey to the audience the exasperation that Annie feels towards her mother but also the struggles that the older woman has had to face. Despite the humour and over-the-top personality of her mother, she feels real to us,  as do all the minor roles.

The musical numbers are a great touch to the show and simultaneously display the emotions of the characters that are singing the song and bring to light Annie's own fears and insecurities. The simple choreography that accompanies some of these is big on laughs and reinforces the fact that we are in the 80s, the decade of cheesy dance moves.

The set consists simply of a toilet right in the middle of the stage, and despite this minimal design, the small touches such as the floral toilet seat and the tilling around it, led to a nicely authentic 80s feel. The subtle touches with the costuming, such as the glasses strap, further built on this environment. There was one occasion though when Annie sits on a chair to the side of the stage and speaks to the audience. Had this taken place inside her head with one of the characters, I would have let it go, but during that dialogue, I kept thinking, why is there a chair in her bathroom? While admittedly a small thing, it was a detail that pulls you out of the world so carefully being created on stage.

Because ultimately and admirably, Pee Stick works in emphasising the little things: not only in Annie’s story but also in its productions values. By crafting her cabaret show in this way, it permits the overall bigger result to be quite successful for Milroy and guarantees an enjoyable hour of laughs from the audience.

Pee Stick was performers at The Butterfly Club between 17 - 21 February.

* Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 22 February 

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