Wild Bore (Malthouse Theatre)

Adrienne Truscott, Ursula Martinez, Zoe Coombs Marr
sitting on their starring arses in Wild Bore

I’ve been thinking a lot about theatre criticism lately, on the back of the layoffs at Fairfax, who are threatening to scale back their arts coverage to virtually non-existent. It’s hard to find even now.

Arts criticism is important to theatre ecology. Good theatre criticism informs a readership about a work it hasn’t seen. Good theatre criticism can be helpful to the artist. Good theatre criticism can be used in a show’s publicity. Good theatre criticism is an art in itself.

If you take criticism away, you diminish the arts.

But criticism isn’t always good. Criticism, like the theatre, can be flawed. And Wild Bore’s challenge to theatre critics is to question themselves.

The dramaturgical intent of this show is clear – critics can sometimes talk out of their arse. The audience is bombarded with this imagery over and over again to hilarious result. But it would be a pity if that’s what this show is remembered for, a lot of bare arses on stage.

Adrienne Truscott, Ursula Martinez and Zoe Coombes Marr are all performance artists whose work doesn’t neatly fit categories. You might call them comedians, but you don’t get tradition stand-up at their solo shows, not even when Zoe is playing “Dave” – a male stand-up comedian.

Truscott’s previous show, One Trick Pony, was about the critical reaction to her previous show Asking for It. She wrestled with her critics there, but she also wrestled with the fact that her work defies neat summary. How do you critique a work if you’re not exactly sure if it’s stand-up, or cabaret, or performance art? And should that matter to her?

Wild Bore continues to pick apart the problems of theatre criticism, while critiquing the show we are watching as it happens. They read choice quotes from reviews of their own work, but also focus on some outrageous, almost meaningless criticism that is remembered purely for its vivid imagery.

There also seems to be a recurring criticism directed at these women’s work, though; a blanket statement that dismisses the choices they make - “for some reason”. Their critics don’t bother to interrogate why these performers might choose certain theatrical devices, they just underline the conceit and leave it at that. For some reason.

I almost wrote that Wild Bore defies criticism, but that feels like a lazy response. This is a smart, confronting, hilarious piece of meta theatre that questions its critics’ biases and then picks apart its own. Yes, even as the show worries about the dominant male critical voice, these three white women step aside for another voice to take the stage. A critique of the critics of the critics. Thank you, Krishna Istha, your voice is very much appreciated.

Wild Bore is a review of Wild Bore and a piece of subversive art comedy theatre performance that doesn’t disappear up its own arse. It just comes dangerously close. And it’s all the better for it.