Wild Bore (Zoe Coombs Marr, Ursula Martinez and Adrienne Truscott)

23 May 2017 | 2:40 pm | Maxim Boon

"This is what great theatre is all about: a performance that is wild, incredibly beautiful, bravely defiant, and most importantly, far from boring."

"'Wild Bore' is apt for a show that is as wildly unentertaining as it is soul crushingly dull; a production in which three allegedly hard done by "artists" — Zoe Coombs Marr, Ursula Martinez and Adrienne Truscott - complain for an hour and half about big bad critics panning their self-indulgent dross.

The show kicks off with three exposed arses dolloped on a trestle table, horrifyingly gyrating along to piped-in dialogue lampooning the work of hardworking and exceptionally talented writers, such as myself. Staring down the barrel of these three digestive tracts, there is an ominous sense of being in front of a firing squad, the only difference being that at least a hail of bullets would have been a quick way to exit this interminable pity party.

Anything Martinez, Coombs-Marr and Truscott's guts might have produced naturally would have been preferable to the eye-watering miasma of self-obsessed guff we're actually assaulted by: a production shitter than actual shit.

This show is to real theatre what 'The Da Vinci Code' is to 'War and Peace', what Donald Trump is to Mahatma Gandhi, what a Chico Roll is to a Wagyu Steak, if said Chico Roll had been pulled out of a bin by an Ibis before being fought over by a rat and possum"…

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... Is just the kind of unjustly seething word-vomit review that comes under scrutiny in this brilliant new production exploring the complex relationship between critics and creators.

Via a cherry-picked catalogue of scathing review quotes, linked by a whimsical yet razor-edged sequence of staged responses, comedy-cabaret visionaries Zoe Coombes Marr, Ursula Martinez and Adrienne Truscott take to task the writers whose unfettered bile can smear the efforts of artists in a smothering slop of misunderstanding.

But this is not just a tit-for-tat act of revenge, nor an attempt at artistic jingoism. There is a distinct tone of affection for, if nothing else, the literary alley-oops employed by some theatre critics. Truscott coos over a description of an actor "walking like an anchovy and looking like an unmade bunk bed." With such delicious metaphors that baffle as much as they amuse, it's easy to see why the art of the negative critique, when truly perfected, commands some measure of admiration among artists.

But there are more than a few aspects of critical writing that rightly deserve a dressing down, and Coombs Marr, Martinez and Truscott lay out their ire with intelligent, targeted passion. These three performance-makers thrive in a creative realm on the fringes of the mainstream, and as has frequently been the case for anything considered "avant garde", they have been dismissed in the past by critics who've failed to see the value of work they deem too challenging or complex. Through irreverent yet reasoned argument, they reveal the glaring paradox that a work many months in the making, backed up by craft honed over many years, can be written-off in a single glib sentence, penned in a matter of seconds.

There's also the issue of the entrenched misogyny and conservatism alive and well in some quarters of the critical press, often accompanied by a glowering sense of intellectual righteousness. Curling tautologies, cack-handed and insensitive summations, and utterly missed points; dodging these slings and arrows can be some of the most frustrating hurdles facing artists, particularly those working to innovate beyond established norms. 

But if this premise sounds at best esoteric and at worst off-puttingly bitter, Wild Bore artfully manages to be neither. With a mix of high-brow satire and low-brow - and I mean really low-brow - toilet humour, these observations about the push-pull symbiosis between theatre critics and performers remain buoyant, accessible, and uproariously funny, nose to tail.

The final image of the show - a moment when everyone on stage is literally laid bare - is perhaps the most impressive display of theatrical alchemy. A state of acute vulnerability is transmuted into a glorious declaration of agency. This is what great theatre is all about: a performance that is wild, incredibly beautiful, bravely defiant, and most importantly, far from boring.

Zoe Coombs Marr, Ursula Martinez and Adrienne Truscott present Wild Bore till 4 Jun at Malthouse Theatre.