Peta Lily, Topless

Review in Issue 11-2 | Summer 1999

When Peta Lily first bounds into the intimate performance space – sparsely furnished with a stool, flip chart and a seemingly superfluous cellist, there’s a sense of excited anticipation as to how she will fill the emptiness. Particularly as the programme notes extol her ‘heightened performance style’ and ‘extraordinary breed of physical theatre’.

However, aside from some disjointed dancing – accompanied by the disappointingly under-used cellist and some intermittent and distorted staggering – the piece is more of an energetic stand-up routine than a display of vocal or physical ability.

Yet, as the reminiscences progress, Peta Lily’s strengths do become apparent. These include an interesting approach to ‘dark clown’ and a macabre comic style which are demonstrated in her accounts of failed relationships, low self-esteem, and her brush with breast cancer. These accounts are both hilarious in their frankness and moving.

Topless treads a fine line between self-deprecation and self-indulgence, but with her consistently high energy level and warm, engaging stage presence, Peta Lily captures and maintains the attention of her audience throughout. The confessional material is apt for this small auditorium, with chairs and tables arranged in cosy cabaret style giving the atmosphere of a comedy club or late night-bar. However, the description in the programme of Lily as ‘an artist committed to creating invigorating theatre’ whose performances ‘meld the work of the Parisian masters’ is questionable. In the case of this show at least.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Apr 1999

This article in the magazine

Issue 11-2
p. 22