alternately brilliant and incoherent

— REVIEW of ‘Being Dead (Don Quixote)’ | The Age

Being Dead (Don Quixote) | Review


“Remember: there is no piece of art so bad, that it doesn’t have something good in it,” Kerith Manderson-Galvin tells us at the outset of her show. She is, of course, paraphrasing one of Cervantes’ many caveats about books in Don Quixote, and given what comes afterwards, it is fair warning.

Among the more bizarre, disjointed pieces of performance art I’ve seen, Being Dead (Don Quixote) is post-dramatic picaresque with moments of scattered and erratic inspiration, drowning in a soup of kook and cringe.

Through short scenes introduced by a hyper-feminine Sancho Panza, the one-woman show splices excerpts of Cervantes’ great novel with diatribes on celebrity culture, offbeat monologues about sex and internet dating, and anarchic physical theatre.

A feminist aesthetic underpins the homage to Cervantes’ romantic satire. We get the knight mansplaining about what women really want, embarking on a powerful quest involving an abortion, and tilting at windmills (in this case, an inert industrial fan) using ballet moves.

The critique is alternately brilliant and incoherent, penetrating and flapdoodle. Seeing Kerith Manderson-Galvin at this early point in her career is a bit like witnessing the first tottering steps of a newborn foal that stands every chance of turning into a racehorse of genius.

Indeed, she does play a horse at one point, donning a huge puppet head to appear as Don Quixote’s steed, Rosinante. And that doesn’t win the prize for the oddest scene (that belongs to the bit where she lip-synchs Patti Smith’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Nigger through a cardboard cut-out of a policeman).

A two-piece girl band provides smooth musical interludes, but it can’t hide the show’s many rough edges. Manderson-Galvin has huge potential: her writing can be funny and clever, her performance absorbing, but she needs greater craftswomanship, and stronger direction, to perfect her highly original brand of queer feminist clowning.