‘Happy-Go-Wrong’ was commanding.
Movement, music and candid storytelling combine in Andi Snelling’s impressive and visceral one-woman show.
Undercover Artist “exists to profile and promote outstanding work by performing artists with disability” and 2021’s Undercover Artist Festival partnered with Brisbane Festival from Thursday, 16 September to Friday, 17 September 2021 for a “three-day disability-led performance festival”.
Snelling’s physical theatre piece ‘Happy-Go-Wrong’ was performed in the Bille Brown Theatre with Auslan Interpretation, Audio Description and Live Captioning. Produced by Matthew Brigs, with dramaturgy by Fiona Scott-Norman, the hour-long show featured appearances from a roller-skating French angel/guardian, intense movement sequences, and a tear-jerking finish. The aftermath of a life-changing tick bite is portrayed in the work, from the self-created and multi-faceted rescue mission to the varied and unexpected impacts of the event.
The Bille Brown Theatre is a large space for a one-person show, but the set and lighting was fit to the task, with towers of cascading kraft paper looming in varied colours to break up the stage. Lighting throughout, by Mark Oakley, effectively mirrored the varied states of Snelling, be it isolation, rage, or joy, and enhanced the comedy of the angelic emergences.
Sound and music played a key role in the story of the work, shaping movement, accommodating comedic relief, and building the world outside the events on stage. Designed by Caleb Garfinkel, sound elements provided Snelling with a foil, a foe, and in some ways another character in the show. The ‘hold’ music was repeatedly interrupted by Snelling’s pithy observations before she then returned her straining-to-contain-herself-rage-dance. This was a highlight. The cheerful, but somehow mocking hold messages were also bang-on in their criticism of overblown bureaucracy getting in the way of healthcare.
The performance by Snelling herself was passionate and commanding. The show breaks down some of the more formal elements of theatre as the performer engaged with audiences, building in call and response moments, banter and running jokes. This camaraderie then went on to make Snelling’s honesty and vulnerability towards the night’s conclusion all the more powerful, as that bond and trust were built and the experience of the performance more deeply shared. These choices were presumably worked through with Danielle Cresp, who was the development director on the piece.
After the comedy of the angel, and the spectacle of the movement work, we see the performance coming from what feels like a new place. The frustrations of the endless hold cycle and belittling outside reactions to the accident culminate in a raw and moving monologue. This sequence and the build towards it are part of a striking finish to the performance, and what feels like its strongest section. The sense of bewilderment at having to live life on uncertain new terms, and attempting to navigate an imperfect health system in a global pandemic are clearly conveyed, as well as the shock of the physical impact.
However, it is ‘lucky’ that Snelling ultimately characterises herself as. Lucky to be alive, to be her own guardian angel, and to join her new community.
‘Happy-Go-Wrong’ balances its heavy themes with comedy and engaging physical performance, and is an emotionally affecting exploration of life and death, self-reliance, and disability.
‘Happy-Go-Wrong’ ran for one night only on Friday, 17 September 2021 at Queensland Theatre. For more information visit the Undercover Artist website.