This bitch bites and we loved every second of it.
Bitch on Heat is a full degustation of vignettes that explore the restrictive roles placed on women, by men and also by themselves. No answers, just a full set of can’t-tear-your-eyes-away provocations. Leah doesn’t pull any punches as she utilises high-camp, absurdist, lip-synching performance art to explore the history of the sexualisation and vilification of the female body through ancient myths, porn, the politics of stereotypical 50’s house wives, and revenge movies heroines.
Leah Shelton proves once again she is a master of the stage, who holds the audience in the palm of her hand. Each movement is authentic and purposeful. Stillness captures and draws us into each vignette. Not only that, she is a true chameleon. Throughout the performance she inhabits numerous characters, all carrying their own unique physicality and expression. Her transitions are seamless and the attention to detail impressive as she bounces from sex object to lecherous old man to Stepford Wife, with little else by a PVC suit and a wig. It is a true masterclass in live performance.
Never once wavering from sharp satire, Bitch on Heat balances the film line between the absurb and critical, the hilarious and the harrowing. It pays respect to the experiences of women, while tearing apart the roles that have been thrust upon them. This particularly hits home when Leah as Stepford Wife teaches us the art of serving a husband. My one quibble is that the staging in the Turbine Studio doesn’t do justice to the scale of the work. A low, small stage, and a sold-out space left some in the back of the room craning to capture some elements of the show. I look forward to seeing it restaged in a larger venue.
No solo work is ever birthed alone and kudos much be given to the creative team Leah has pulled together for Bitch on Heat. Some of the creatives that she collaborated with for this piece include director Ursula Martinez, and performance makers Daniel Evans, Saffron Benner, Liesel Zink and Christine Felmingham. Credit particularly needs to go to Kenneth Lyons for the gorgeous sound design that forms the spine of this piece.
With Bitch on Heat, Leah Shelton proves once again she’s a theatrical force to be reckoned with who has a sharp eye for destroying tropes that define and limit us. It is a perfect follow-up to her last solo show, the deliciously macabre Terror Australis, making Leah a buy-on-sight artist for NEHIB. Snap up tickets for this incisive visual feast, you will not be disappointed.
Nadia Jade and Ads J saw Bitch on Heat 22 November 2018. It runs at the Brisbane Powerhouse until 24 November 2018
Performer and Creator | Leah Shelton
Director | Ursula Martinez
Sound design | Kenneth Lyons
Lighting | Jason Glenwright
Voices of God |Guy Webster and Hugh Parker
With support from | Daniel Evans, Saffron Benner, Liesel Zink, Christine Felmingham, Marlborough Pub & Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse and Queensland Theatre
Feature image by Sarah Walker Photography, photos from the show by FenLan Chuang.