November 2016

22 Nov Everyone Leaves The Theatre With A Smile

Arts Festival of Dunedin 2016
MICHELE A’COURT in STUFF I FORGOT TO TELL MY DAUGHTER
presented by NOTORIOUS*at Playhouse Theatre, Dunedin
From 5 Oct 2016 to 8 Oct 2016
[1 hr]Reviewed by Kimberley Buchan, 5 Oct 2016

 

Michele A’Court went into a bit of a panic when her daughter left home to start her own life on her own terms. All of the things that she meant to tell her daughter but had forgotten to mention in between “eat your broccoli” and “do your homework” went pouring through her head. A’Court has decided to rectify this situation by making sure that she fills in the blanks for her daughter and for the rest of the country as well. The result of this motherly stress out is a two hour comedy show entitled Stuff I Forgot To Tell My Daughter. So I’ve decided to take my mum.

A’Court gives advice, both practical and philosophical. If you would like to know how to store ginger or stop your tights from snagging, you will leave the theatre satisfied that you have made your life more economically effective. If you would like to consider human equality and how incredibly far we have come in a really short time you will leave the theatre satisfied that you are alive in New Zealand in 2016.

That might sound a bit dry for a comedy show. I assure you it isn’t. True, there are moments where the audience get quiet and thoughtful and there is the elated “oooooooo” when everyone realises how much money they are going to save on tights now, but for the rest of the time they are rollicking with laughter. If you aren’t instantly hooked by the tights angle, then it is worth going to just for the glimpse of an early nineties sex education video.

A’Court knows how to captivate an audience and exactly how to time her anecdotes for maximum hilarity. She makes an instant connection with her audience from the first moment of her show, which is a slideshow of photos of her daughter. Every single person in the audience relates to these iconic Kiwi coming of age moments. She is a warm and inviting storyteller.

My mother says that it felt like we should have been on a couch in her living room sharing stories. It does inspire some deep and interesting conversation between us. Everyone leaves the theatre with a smile. It is the kind of show that afterwards you immediately message your friends saying “you have got to see this!”

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22 Nov Hilarious, Informative, Eye-Opening

Southland Festival of the Arts 2016
MICHELE A’COURT in STUFF I FORGOT TO TELL MY DAUGHTER
presented by NOTORIOUS*at Repertory House, 167 Esk Street, Invercargill
29 Apr 2016
[1 hr]Reviewed by Sarah McCarthy, 30 Apr 2016

 

A packed house greets Michele A’Court at Invercargill’s Repertory Theatre for Stuff I Forgot to Tell My Daughter. A one-woman stand-up show, it does the seemingly impossible, melding sweet memories, bawdy laughs and basic feminist theory.

A’Court has the audience in the palm of her hand from the get-go, which allows her to weave her way through the nearly jarring tonal shifts throughout her set without once losing traction.

It’s a performance that reminds us of the importance of stage presence and confidence; lessons that can only be learned though years of performance. A’Court’s persona is such that even when a punch line can be sensed miles away, the audience is on the journey with her nonetheless.

The woman is hilarious. It’s such a pleasure to be in an audience where people are actually howling with laughter – and so eager for the second act to begin that they stay, for the most part, in their seats during interval.

Now on the last leg of her Arts on Tour NZ season, there is a beautiful rhythm to her performance that keeps the connection with the audience alive, especially during a tough second act where the laughs aren’t as plentiful. A’Court plunges into the ‘herstory’ of the Feminist movement and manages to throw some serious shade at the patriarchy while remaining amusing. An informative and eye-opening reflection on women’s rights is an unexpected detour, yet one that shores up the way she talks about her daughter and her own experiences in other parts of her performance.

And it’s in that confidence again that her genius lies. She isn’t afraid to slow down her show and tonally change direction, because, as only a seasoned performer knows, her audience is with her all the way.

A genuinely wonderful night out with one of New Zealand’s best.

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22 Nov Stuff To Tell Our Sons As Well?

MICHELE A’COURT in STUFF I FORGOT TO TELL MY DAUGHTER
presented by NOTORIOUS*at The Famous Spiegeltent, Havelock North Domain, Havelock North
4 Oct 2015
[1 hr]

Reviewed by Karen Beaumont, 5 Nov 2015

 

Comedian, author and social commentator, Michele A’Court’s solo show, Stuff I forgot to tell my Daughter, is a laugh out loud, wipe away the tears look at mother and daughter relationships, feminism and life.

A’Court manages to balance that fine line between comic and serious, encouraging the men to laugh at themselves and leaving mothers with further explaining to do. The audience is responsive, calling out replies, applauding in agreement; they are comfortable in their vocalness.

The factual recount about the beginning of feminism provides short sharp reminders of what women have had to contend with, and an eye-opening take on the state of some countries in the world today. As a serious break from the comical banter this section has the potential to run dry but A’Court manages to read her audience well; she maintains a fast pace and her barbed stance on current politics and old breaks those tensions with wry charm.

The cyclic use of slides to mark the beginning and end of the show, from daughter to granddaughter, draws a range of comments and neatly takes us back to the start. The audience is left with the thought that it is not only what we tell our daughters but our sons that will make change for the feminists of the future.

As for ‘Molly’, tonight’s younger target, it may have felt a bit hard at times, and there may have been somethings she wasn’t ready to understand yet, but one day, when she has daughters of her own she may remember tonight and how to defrost bread without electricity.

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22 Nov Informative, Spirited, Lots of Laughs

Nelson Arts Festival 2015
MICHELE A’COURT in STUFF I FORGOT TO TELL MY DAUGHTER
presented by NOTORIOUS*at Nelson Musical Theatre, 95 Atawhai Dr, The Wood, Nelson
23 Oct 2015
[1 hr]

Reviewed by Ro Cambridge, 24 Oct 2015

 

 Michele A’Court has a talent to amuse. This much is clear from her long career in the media and in comedy.  But who knew she also had a talent to instruct? The Nelson Arts Festival crowd who fill the quaint Nelson Musical Theatre to see her hour-long, one-woman show are happily amused and instructed in equal measure.

Stuff I Forgot to Tell My Daughter is framed as a light-hearted look at the life-skills you should pass on to your daughter before she leaves home. You learn for example what stops your tights snagging and what not to do if you’ve been chopping chillies.

However, the show actually turns out to be a lecture on feminism sandwiched between two slices of stand-up comedy. This makes the whole thing sound more seriously polemical than hilarious and it’s a risky gambit: feminists have a reputation for humourlessness. However A’Court leavens what could have been a leaden loaf by spicing it with a sharp wit and a shrewd though compassionate eye for human foibles.

A’Court turns the stereotype on its tired head to lead a responsive audience on a merry dance with acerbic asides about the Act Party and Paul Henry, wise cracks, ‘dick jokes'; through the first, second and third waves of feminism; into a spirited attack on the inequalities which women still face.

Before A’Court appears on stage – glossy-haired in black tights, embroidered cardigan and a sparkly green skirt – we watch a slide-show of her daughter Molly’s life from chubby-faced baby to teenager trying out the props and costumes of womanhood, and the birth of her own daughter. The effect could have been cloying but it isn’t. The images are personal and yet Molly is also EveryDaughter and Michele is EveryMum.

The slide show continues as a prop throughout the show. Wielding the remote control like the entertaining high school teacher you never had, A’Court flicks through slides which highlight her topics – Sex, Body Image, Youth, Drugs and Alcohol – or illustrates her romp through feminism beginning with the bluestockings of the 18th century.

Along the way we get to watch a film clip of a much younger, bob-haired A’Court in a teen sex education video, rolling a condom onto a very large wooden phallus with nary a flicker of post-modern irony.

A’Court than drags us laughing – via Emily Pankhurst, Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem – into the 21st century by pointing out how even now, women are paid 12% less than men in equivalent work. She’s also got some novel suggestions for righting this wrong very quickly. If you’re a woman and you work a 40 hour week she suggests that all you need to do is … [spoiler averted].

I only wish I’d seen the show before my daughter left home.  Then I would have had a convincing argument for the validity of my maternal advice and admonishment.  A’Court explains it this way: “I have been you, but you haven’t been me. Yet. Therefore, I know things you don’t know. This means you should listen to me.”

Try this reasoning on your wilfully deaf teenage daughter. If it doesn’t work, take her along to Stuff I Forgot to Tell My Daughter instead. Michele A’Court will convince her, and give you both a lot of laughs on the way.

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22 Nov Taking It To The Streets

First published in Your Weekend 19 November 2016

There is a t-shirt in one of my drawers which says simply, “I’m Against It”. I bought it during a particularly busy period – the invasion of Iraq, a cricket tour to Zimbabwe, and the imprisonment of Ahmed Zaoui for starters. For a while there, I could barely get it laundered between outings.

 

When I got the t-shirt, I remembered thinking I would have liked to have had it during the early weeks of Springbok tour protests in 1981 before we took to wearing body protection (I fashioned carpet tiles together with bailing twine). In recent years it stayed in the drawer because during the Marriage Equality campaign it would have put me on the wrong side.

 

If I was in America right now, that t-shirt would be getting another turn. Not, as some suggest, because protesters gathering daily on city streets are being paid to turn up (would that be a flat fee or by the hour, and do you get bonuses for placards and/or chanting?) but because the idea of peacefully walking the streets with strangers who share your ideas and anxieties is, quite simply, bloody lovely.

 

You wouldn’t find me damaging private property or throwing a punch, and I’m as nervous as the next person about any escalation to violence. But so far, the thousands protesting in America are exercising their 1st Amendment right without any recourse to the 2nd Amendment. The guy with the gun was a pro-Trump supporter in Portland.

 

Importantly, these protesters are not suggesting the ballot was rigged – they lost, and they know it. But majority rule doesn’t mean minority silence. It was swathes of people feeling they’d been made silent that got America to where it is right now. A long walk, some fresh air and real-world political engagement is possibly just what’s needed.

 

I appreciate those calling for a “wait and see” approach to Trump’s presidency. Perhaps building the wall is a metaphor rather than a construction project, and the mass deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants is another. But the rise in bullying and threatening of Muslims, Latinos, African-Americans, Jews and gays, meanwhile, hasn’t waited till inauguration day.

 

One of the points of protesting is to temper what your government does next. Here’s another metaphor: If someone is coming for you, one of the things a potential victim is supposed to do (something she will be judged on later) is shout “no”. And sound like you mean it.

 

So it seems appropriate that many people in America, afraid of what is coming next, are shouting “no”. Or, as they’ve been chanting in cities throughout America in old-school call-and-response style: “Show me what democracy looks like / This is what democracy looks like.”

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01 Nov What Really Gets On My Titties?

The idea that Paul Henry, Max Key and co are ‘just saying what all guys are thinking’.

Published by the Spinoff ( www.thespinoff.co.nz ) Tuesday 1 November 2016.

Men, it’s time to call a meeting. The agenda? Actually choosing not to mouth off about titties and pussies and riding women, writes Michele A’Court.

I’d like to think there’s a men’s meeting going on somewhere with someone in charge making an important speech. “Fellers, look, you can have your fun and, sure, we all make mistakes. But just calm the fuck down, would you, on the public displays of douchiness – you’re making us all look bad.”

Because with every step forward – men speaking out against family violence, corporations endorsing policies of inclusion, the Icelandic government pledging to close the gender pay gap by 2020, your partner doing shit around the house without making a song and dance about it – just when you think, “We’re getting somewhere!” some numb-nut grabs you by the pussy and pushes us all 50 steps back.

Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a lady-version of The Truman Show – surrounded by good souls who are into fancy shit like consent, and listening, and kindness, and being respectful. We have grown-up conversations about Syria and climate change and medicinal marijuana and TV shows and music and the Dakota Access Pipeline and we drink a bit, and you forget – or can’t even imagine – that there are people out there talking about whether someone’s “titties” are more Palm Springs or Rancho Mirage.

It’s my own fault, I guess. I don’t listen to talkback and I rarely read the comments. I don’t want to look at people in the biscuit aisle at the supermarket and wonder if they’re the person I just heard talking about Muslims and/or solo mums in a way that’s less than elevating.

And so – let’s do this chronologically – Trump was shocking to me. Less what he has said, than the barrage of people defending it as locker-room banter. Really? You guys have a private world where this is OK? Is that really what happens when women aren’t there? Well, fuck me with an orange toupee. I’m going to look at you all a little differently for a while.

And then along comes Max Key with his “real men ride women”. Though it was mostly his Dad’s response that infuriated me – the old diminish-and-dismiss one-two: “Clearly he didn’t mean to make the sort of comment that he made in the way he did, but he fully takes responsibility for it. I’ve told him it’s not appropriate, he’s apologised and assured me he won’t do it again.”

Look, we all love our kids – that’s our job – but that whole first sentence is patently bullshit. A) Max actually said it with his very own voice; B) it’s four words so sod-all wiggle room for getting anything round the wrong way and misrepresenting his intent; C) Max, apparently alone in the car, videoed himself shouting it at the cyclists, then D) hit stop and save on the recording; and E) satisfied with its content, uploaded it to the internet. That was exactly the sort of comment he meant to make. If he’d fucked it up, doubtless he would have driven round the block, come up behind the cyclists one more time and given himself a Take 2.

And then Paul Henry. Again, it’s not what he said that shocked me. Blah blah genius, blah blah hate people. Up until the bit about his fellow diner, my response would have been a solid, “Meh.” And I guess it’s not even that a grown man goes into a lengthy lunchtime riff about breasts that bothers me – now that I’ve seen behind the cyclorama on The Ms Truman Show, I’m getting to grips with the idea that #notallmen are like the pleasant male humans I know personally.

As I’ve said somewhere else, it was the restaurant equivalent of shouting unwarranted commentary from a passing car at a woman trying to go about her day. Whether she heard him or not (maybe she zipped up her jacket because she was suddenly sitting in a draft) he had reduced her to an object for his judgement over quite some period of time. Long enough to ascribe geographical descriptions and ponder the effects of future motherhood on their terrain.

But there are two things that properly get on my own personal tits about this. First, that Henry thought this was appropriate for a news and current affairs host to say in a mainstream media interview. That you can commentate publicly about a real human person’s “titties” one minute, and ask probing questions about the housing crisis, or sexual violence, or an industrial dispute the next. Without your viewers wondering whether your interviewee has, in your expert and well-documented opinion, boobs that owe their provenance to Palm Springs or Rancho Mirage.

And secondly, what annoyed me was not being able to dismiss the “titties” rant as the attitude and behaviour of an outlier. “Paul Henry just says out loud what everyone else is thinking!” Are you? Seriously? And here was me thinking he was saying what other people were too smart to think in the first place and/or too well-mannered to keep to them-fucking-selves. Because it is seriously not helping.

And look, just a brief mention of Anthony Weiner. If that needy little dude’s dick-pics end up being the schlong that breaks the camel’s back and delivers Donald “No-one respects women more than I do” Trump to the Whitehouse, I’m walking off The Ms Truman Show set once and for all.

I like to have people of substance to look up to. Journalists and broadcasters and politicians who are smarter than me, and also kind, and who have a bigger vision than me – but who have me (or someone like us) in mind when they ask their questions or make their decisions. So on a flagship news and current affairs show, I’d like to go, “That guy – he represents me and asks questions on my behalf because he cares about people like me.”

Without wanting to go all Hobson’s Pledge on your arse and get nostalgic for “God Save the Queen” at the movies, wouldn’t it be great to have more men of character and quality just, like, deliberately choosing to not talk about titties and pussies and riding women, or even just using their elevated position to punch up, rather than down.

Because I think it would be in all of our interests to get to a place where, when someone said something offensive about women, our first reaction was not to say, “Well, you know … That’s what men are like.” Someone really should call that meeting.

 

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