A visit with a doppleganger

Erin Brannigan: Kay Armstrong, An Hour With Kay

Kay Armstrong, An Hour With Kay

Kay Armstrong, An Hour With Kay

Kay Armstrong, An Hour With Kay

Kay Armstrong begins her solo show proper with a departure. We watch on a mobile phone screen held by Kay-who-is-not-Kay as the artist leaves the building in ‘real time,’ apologising that she can’t stay. Her protracted exit, as she negotiates several sets of stairs long after her script has ended, creates an awkward pause between us and the two Kays as we huddle around the mobile phone screen.

Prior to this we stood on a balcony and watched Kay Armstrong in the distance, dressed for a tropical holiday and swaying among the pot plants on a run-down rooftop in a grungy part of Surry Hills. Now we enter a theatre space by following footprints marked on the floor. Directed to sit apart from our friends by the other Kay, holding paddles as if signalling on a runway, we are spread across the seating bank. Presence/absence, fractured fictions, temporal dislocations and social isolation are all set out promptly and poetically.

Armstrong’s work combines monologue, stand-up, dance and a playful approach to objects and scenic design. Early on, the audience is given the impossible task of working in groups on a world map jigsaw puzzle. Establishing that we are not there to “make sense of the world,” Kay crams her tacky white skirt suit full of fluffy white stuffing, prosthetically adjusting her dancer’s body and performing a sequence of ungainly if virtuosic poses.

The closing section is a testament to Armstrong’s rigorous imagination and creative resourcefulness. We are all given potatoes and sticks with which to each create a creature. Using a version of the pornstar-name generator game to title them—your first pet’s name and the street you grew up on—Kay quietly records their bizarre entreaties (“Help, help, that hurts,” “Please don’t leave me here alone”). We are invited to place our potato creatures (mine being Ginger Concord) in the performance space. On the back wall, amid the white foam and projected shadows, an alien landscape inhabited by fat spikey creatures appears. Kay picks her way through them like King Kong as the little creatures’ cry for help from her iPhone.

This is personality-driven work, as the title self-consciously suggests, playing with this focus through the presence/absence of Armstrong across the hour. At one point Kay phones in instructions to an audience member from another room and at another she reels off adjusted song titles that are funny and downbeat (“What if Luca doesn’t live on the 2nd floor?” “What if I don’t want to know what love is?”). A self-deprecating, dark humour persists here as in all of Kay Armstrong’s solo works, combined with her unfettered joy in the possibilities of theatre and all of its trappings. [It was a wild night out! Eds]

An Hour with Kay, devisor, performer Kay Armstrong The Old 505 Theatre, Sydney, 30 June-5 July

RealTime issue #128 Aug-Sept 2015 pg. 32

© Erin Brannigan; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

15 August 2015