I arrived a minute or two late. Too late to see Betty Grumble prance on stage in her oversized wig, drag queen make-up and body paint.
Instead I’m faced with her bare behind that is decorated with eyes, and her vagina which she is contorting to ‘sing along’ with a rendition of 'Lovin’ You' by Minnie Riperton. This is an entirely new take on ‘lip-syncing’... If you get my drift.
There are gasps of shock, nervous laughter and hands held to mouth by those in the audience who clearly had no idea of what to expect from this celebrated sex clown, ecofeminist, singer and poet. At the end of the song Betty stands up, butt naked and takes the first round of applause.
“Too much too soon?” Betty (aka performer Emma Maye Gibson) asks the audience. For some first time viewers, it clearly is, but for most it’s a hilarious, outrageous and confronting opening to a show about sexuality, feminism, empowerment, and freedom.
Betty begins reading passages from 'S.C.U.M Manifesto', the polarising book that argues that men have ruined the world, and that it is up to women to fix it. To achieve this goal, author Valerie Solanas proposes the formation of S.C.U.M (Society for Cutting Up Men), an organisation dedicated to overthrowing society and eliminating the male sex.
Betty uses the text throughout her show but opens with the repudiating chant “this is a metaphor, metaphor, metaphor”, getting the audience to chant it with her. It is clear her intent is to dispel the notion she’s a man-hating feminist. “I love men,” she says, a sentiment she repeats throughout the show.
At the centre of 'Love And Anger' is Betty’s frustration with modern society and by dissecting societal norms she challenges the status quo in her own unique, brash, and endearing manner. Despite the raw crudity of her on-stage antics, there is actually nothing offensive about her show. Betty skilfully takes her audience on a revelatory journey as she rips apart the stereotypes of what it is to be female in a chauvinistic world. A world where corporate greed, environmental destruction and intolerance are the new standards.
Betty Grumble is a true performance artist – a ‘triple threat’ entertainer who can dance, sing and act extremely well. There is no limit to her energy and she has a fine voice which sadly she doesn’t exercise as much as she could.
Betty’s passion for her art is evident throughout the show and even though you’ve just witnessed a naked woman explore herself – both figuratively and literally – you can’t help but leave without a sense of envy – wondering what it must be like to be that liberated. To have quashed your own personal fears and inhibitions and able to show the world your true naked self. The show ingeniously blends cabaret, physical theatre, burlesque and performance art in a searing 60 minutes that leaves zero to the imagination.
'Love & Anger' is nothing short of brilliant and an absolute ‘must see’ for festival audiences. But just don’t grumble about the content if you’re even the slightest bit prudish. You have been warned.