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FringeReview Scotland 2023

Unforgettable Girl

Elisabeth Gunawan, Journey to the East Festival

Genre: Bouffon, Dance, LGBTQIA+, Physical Theatre

Venue: 103 French Street, Glasgow


Low Down

Performed as part of a festival celebrating East Asian queer people of colour and their work this was two scenes presented out of a larger performance piece. The first scene is a young woman in a blond wig of Asian ethnicity bringing a large exercise ball on her back on which she sits to talk to us about our joint white privilege. The second scene has a young woman – an Asian bride – who was delivered by Amazon now being placed back into the box, presumably to be sent packing, back from whence they may have come.


Given as part of a highly innovative festival, it was both challenging and illuminating. The first scene has a lot to say about the irony of a woman of colour asking a predominantly white audience – though only just – what it feels like to be so privileged in terms of their colour – to be white. The reference about the ball being the burden of white privilege that she carries is the highlight as some of the rest of it feels a little old news. The scene is meant to be an interlude within the context of the full piece so it should work as a stand-alone performance. I would love to see Gunawan’s work from the first half before getting to this as an audience member as I think it would work much more effectively. Though it challenges and does so quite well, it needed, for me some context. It was well delivered though some of the interactions were a little stilted as not a lot was coming back. Has a great deal of promise.
Context was unnecessary for the second scene which worked so well. Exploding from the sidelines it was much more violent and brutal; an eruption of thought in physical presence. Being tied to some unseen outpost as she manages to get rid of whatever servile costume she has been forced to wear, Gunawan really does make this ask some very tough questions. The conceit is that the character – Vaccine – has been sent to be a panacea against a deadly pandemic – loneliness. This is a scene from childhood and the foetal connection to that time are well rehearsed and performed. I loved the premise and the way in which contemporary references have been corrupted to force us to look at long held practices is very clever indeed. Gunawan as a performer was very much someone who you could interact with and warm to. Given that this was but one scene out of a whole piece of work it was enough to whet my appetite.
For me, though, in a dark and freezing venue where the price of sorting out the energy crisis is never going to be something an artist – collective or otherwise – can afford, was a specific challenge. Our venue also made the technical effects a little less effective as they had few to offer, though they did exceptionally well with what they had. To contemplate this further – to be devoutly wished – would need a better and more comfortable venue, but that’s the joy of this type of theatre – it looks forward and asks you to join their journey. I am now off to the east with them. .