Brighton Fringe 2016
“Through a blend of stand up, song, dance, games and a cameo by her sidekick, Nigel the Pug, Ballou will delve into the comedic depths of pregnancy and work out what’s funny about having a tiny human sticking out of the front of you (spoiler: a lot). goo:ga mocks postfeminist fetishisation of ‘the bump’, celebrity fertility as spectacle, and the de-sexing of pregnant women that is the product of Western culture’s beloved Madonna/whore binary.”
From Hoo: Ha to goo:ga the clever, savvy, articulate and very pregnant Hannah Ballou, starring The Bump and co-starring Nigel (The Pug) is a delight to watch…from burlesque dancing to intellectualism to fiery political feminism and philosophical gender existentialism all delivered with calm, succinct and academic credence. Ballou will keep you thinking and before you can take a Lamaze breath or morphine doped snort at her well timed punch lines she will throw another thunderbolt life question into your lap while chewing thoughtfully on a krusty Doughnut. Extra sprinkles.
In previous performances Ballou has explored topics such as ‘dissonance between sexiness and funniness”, including such gems as “There is just something about twerking that hits me right in the dissonance…BUT….I would not want to be accused of inappropriately appropriating African-American stripper culture….here we try to avoid the mistake that so many other white middle class performance artists make…which is ignoring their whiteness…” (see more on feminist twerking here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPGEsPgbHOI). Goog: ga continues with such complex and and depthy societal issues together with an intelligent humour and beautifully bold and sexy physical clowning. Well staged, clearly delivered, full of philosophy and humour this is a professional and solid comedy show.
From disclosing her pregnancy live on stage back in 2015, to sharing the sex of the baby last week and then in this final spectacular allowing the audience to (with help and heavy bias) determine the fate of the baby’s legal name, it was performance art at its best seeing Ballou as the now hugely and gloriously pregnant Feminist, at the finale of this almost 9 month long live performance art. It might have reassured her to know there were 4 midwives in the audience. A couple of whom muttered to each other under their breaths, after a brilliantly self aware take on the extremist paradigms of birth ‘camps’, about the feminist need to urgently emancipate women from the technocratic model of birth. But maybe that’s a subject for the next show.
Like many of her performances this show is a self referential viva voce on current sociological phenomenon – in this case the responsibilities of parents to allow an unfolding, rather than a defining of, gender identity in their children. It’s also a refection on her own privilege as white middle class and pregnant western woman. Ballou comments on the bemusement of realising how much society is currently favouring her as the glowing expectant and presumably sexless mother figure, reminding us that the feminist themes of fat and society’s control over women’s physical form interweaves ominously through the work of motherhood. Even here, particularly here, women must be on their guard against falling into pre-determined, unconsciousness trappings of society’s maternal nostalgia. I felt touched by Ballou’s obvious concern for her sense of responsibility for how her daughter might navigate through the Barbie infested instagram waters of modern life.
Goog: ga will now remain as the only show that fulfilled my childhood association of Salt and Pepa’s Push It, with childbirth. Ballou may be the only heavily pregnant burlesque dancing Phd-holding comedienne…at least in Brighton Fringe anyway.
Ballou shares with us her regret in knowing she couldn’t be as tenacious as the family in the US raising their child “Storm” as gender neutral – meaning only close family actually know the sex of the child. In this way she mirrors the audience’s limitations, many of us have nodded knowingly, cheered and maybe even internally punched the air at the clear call to arms of the politicising issues around birth and parenting. But how many of us will take those seeds of thought and plant them purposefully in our families consciousness? We can only hope for the weary gaze of a melancholic Pug to remind us that there’s still much work to be done.