Premiering her new show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Emma Mary Hall's Ode To Man is a poetic look at the death of heroic masculinity and how it has changed over the years. Hall smashes through these concepts in her assertion that being a man should no longer be about aggression, dominance and physically strength, but about honesty, openness and awareness.
Hall's performance essay is sharply written and flows smoothly as she blends stories of past relationships with philosophical, historical and biological perspectives on men and women and gender roles and ideas. There is purpose to every word that Hall utters and each one builds on what she has previously shared with her captivated audience, listening intently to what she imparts. Hall absolutely shines when she gets into an impassioned speech and the anger, frustration and disappointment she is expressing is palpable.
Skilled direction by Prue Clark allows for Hall to be able to use the space to express herself while creating an intimate ambience. Despite the confines of the small venue, it never feels like Hall is boxed in or limited in her movement. Hall simultaneously takes on traditional notions of what masculinity and femininity look like, and incorporates them effortlessly and consistently into her body language, facial expressions and voice. In some ways, it can be seen as an experiment on whether the two can co-exist harmoniously.
Lindsay Cox's animation and projections are intelligent and creative, supporting the thoughts and observations that Hall shares with us and adding a deeper visual layer. It is an extremely well crafted show where even the seemingly nondescript clothing that Hall is wearing, designed by Nicola Gunn, makes an impact on what Ode to Man is exploring. The size of the theatre contributes to the emotional impact and while this is definitely the best space for such a performance, it is disappointing knowing that not as many people who should be seeing this will be able to see it.
While not exactly laugh-out-loud comedy, Ode To Man is a powerful piece of performance theatre that challenges what masculinity was, is and should be and what it takes to be a 'real' man. The passion that Hall shares with this topic and the depth at how much she has researched and chosen to share with us, makes it a stand out performance in this original, stirring work.
Aeso Studio, 83 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Season: until 9 April | Tues - Sat 7.30pm, Sun 6:30pm
Length: 55 minutes
Tickets: $20.30 Full | $17.30 Conc | Tightarse Tuesday $15.30
Bookings: MICF website