Melanie Jame Wolf's returns to Arts House with Highness, the second of three parts in her exploration on what it means to be a woman while looking at three distinct archetypes: the Whore, the Queen and the Hag. The first, Mira Fuchs (2016), was an engaging and intimate piece that focused on Wolf's time as a stripper with thoughts and discussion raised on issues such as gender, sexuality, desire and stigma. In Highness, Wolf looks at the women who have been in her life, the Queens, and what it means to wear a crown.
While Mira Fuchs expressed its ideas in an engaging and immersive atmosphere, the same cannot be said for Highness, which gets stuck in repetitive acts being performed on stage and little semblance of any narrative or structure. There were no statements or questions being asked of the audience and while there were moments where it seemed like Wolf was about to put something out there, the scene dragged on to a fizzling conclusion.
A times, the show was visually engaging, including Wolf's initial full body rose print that covered her completely from head to toe. Set against a completely white set and minimal stage design, it was a striking aesthetic that highlighted how Queens stand out and demand our attention.
Martin Hansen and Ivey Wawn played Wolf's attendants who wait on her every need, dressing and undressing her, and changing the set as required. While this supported the idea of holding our Queens in high regard and was entertaining to watch initially, it remained constant from the beginning to the end of the work and, like much of the show, became expected and wearisome.
While Wolf showed the respect that she holds for Queens, and how we should all do the same, the performance never moved beyond the surface of this idea. In its execution, it seemed like Highness struggled in finding its own identity.
Highness was performed at Arts House between 18 - 21 July 2018.
Photo credit: Bryony Jackson