Adelaide Fringe 2011
Simply told You Are Not Like All The Other Girls, Chrissy is a reincarnation of how Caroline Horton’s French grandmother met, fell for and married her English grandfather before and after WWII. A love story. Yet through the use of luggage, language and letters this story becomes a mesmerising memoir on the role borders play in our lives and how we allow them to define us – or not.
Caroline Horton brings her passion project to life with great skill as a solo artiste, easily commanding the stage and able to render WWII collapsible into a suitcase by embodying her grandmother’s story that love can transcend all borders. She hit the emotional ebbs and flows whilst not letting them overrun the continuity of the narrative and expertly maintained consistency of her accent and vocal rhythm.
From the moment we heard Chrissy yelling behind us down the corridor and throwing herself up on stage, she created an immediate connection and participation with the audience. It was as if each of us was waiting with her on the train platform and she just turned around and started telling us about what led her to being there at that moment next to you. Yes, even naming our English-bred reticence and slight distaste at a stranger’s effusion.
Then like a travelling troubadour, Chrissy swept us up on her travels and travails along with her pop-up suitcases across country borders, across island waters, across Paris, across green lawns, across court, across languages, across the air waves, across fruit and veg, across enemy occupied territory to liberated land in the pursuit of love. This transportation was achieved by a seamless sewing together of words, physicality and props.
The writing was very well constructed with an effortless suite of transitions between vignettes with each one serving its purpose of moving the ‘grand’ story forward. There was a lovely balance of light and shade in its tonal movement and the infusion of French speaking was appropriate and enhanced the theme rather that act as an access barrier. I did feel in a couple of instances that there were unnecessary ‘extra’ words which slightly undercut the dramatic power of the non-verbal language on display. But this is minor feedback.
The venue suited the period and place – even before we entered we were lined up with our tickets waiting for the ticket collector to lift the ‘rail’ and let us through. The vaulted high arch ceilings give it great acoustics for the station announcements. The old wooden floors and traditional stage with a simple French flag hung as the backdrop and the steel laced rigs made it feel just like a platform at the Gard du Nord in the 1940s.
And in a beautiful synchronous moment of serendipitous authenticity a plane flew over the venue just as Chrissy was recounting the Allies bombing of Paris.
The tenacity, joie de vivre, loyalty, hyperbolic tendencies, quirkiness and faith Caroline has endowed her Chrissy with is completely validated by your encounter – in the final few minutes of home video footage and audio – with Christiane.
We are left with Christiane speaking for herself and Caroline rubbing away a tear in her eye as she takes a bow.