‘Putting on the Mask’ was viscerous.
Claire Fitzpatrick’s new performance-art piece, ‘Putting on the Mask’, staged as a part of Anywhere Festival, was the closest one can get to an inter-personal relationship with a performer. Fitzpatrick, the writer and performer of the piece, has created something out-of-the-ordinary, surreal yet realistic and deeply thought-provoking.
The set and costumes were bare-bones, consisting of a simple table and a selection of make-up, with Fitzpatrick in a rag-tag set of pyjamas. This theme of minimalism in set and costume was a through-line woven within ‘Putting on the Mask’.This woman could be any of the audience members and is multiple people at once, and the visual minimalism complemented this storytelling beautifully.
It was a profound slice of life depicting two women, both played by Fitzpatrick, going through the motions of a morning routine while in mourning. There was no spoken word in the whole piece, but to speak would have been superfluous as she was able to convey exactly how she felt, her emotional peaks and valleys, simply through how she interacted with the objects on her dressing table and the music which accompanied her routine. It followed the women as they cried, laughed and danced through trying to ‘put on the mask’ of makeup, trying to conceal their true feelings from the world.
The subject material was clearly of great personal importance to Fitzpatrick, which made for one of the rawest experiences an audience can have in a theatre. She was in her own world and was generous enough to share her world with the audience. It played into the tedium women face whilst trying to keep up with ever-changing and unsustainable beauty standards, and trying to change oneself to please another. The piece was almost too intimate, as the woman’s reality was so vulnerable and viewers often aren’t privileged enough to see such openness on stage. It felt as though we shouldn’t see this woman and that we, the audience, needed to do something to help her.
The piece, while it held clear themes for Fitzpatrick, was open-ended, asking the audience questions instead of providing answers, which allowed for the performance to find a place and meaning inside the individual.
It was an incredibly, brutally honest performance that was simple enough to convey Fitzpatrick’s intent but complex enough to leave the audience with much food for thought.
‘Putting on the Mask’ was a truly unique and weighty piece of performance art, and gave a peek into the life of a very real character, who probably has been and will be, each of us.
Putting on the Mask performed on 22nd May at Elements Collective. For more information visit the Anywhere Festival website.