Husband and wife team, Jo Randerson and Thomas LaHood performed a solid hour of comedy at the Q Theatre Loft last night – leaving the audience gasping with laughter at their strangely absurd, but oh-so-accurate dissection of gender in these terribly strange times. OK – sometimes that laughter was a little nervous. At others downright uncomfortable. But then, Soft N Hard was not like any other piece of comedic theatre I’ve come across, maybe ever.

Photo credit: Simon Tate

In the beginning there are the yellow curtains, vibrant, fluttering. And there is a lump on the floor, encircled by fleshy fabric. And then there’s one of those floppy balloon men, frantically flopping. And out of this primordial ooze, a couple is born – an opposite sex couple, one man, one woman.

Thanks to a helping hand from those lustrous yellow curtains, they are given everything they need to become the man and woman they are destined by society to become. They don’t get to choose anything – she gets her stuff, he gets his. And so the struggle begins – with a strangely non-verbal clowning set-piece, tearing through the minutiae of domestic life, set to a perfectly appropriate, or completely inappropriate sound track.

Photo credit: Simon Tate

Yes – it’s all political. Yes – every gender-based issue raised in the last 50 years comes into play. But not one moment plays as a cliché. Randerson and LaHood’s analysis of gender is fresh and genuinely mind-bending and so completely aware, and not strictly women’s issues.

Thomas breaks the 4th wall at one point and declares to Jo, “Everyone here is cheering for you!” He throws one of the yellow curtains over himself and sobs, “This is the arsehole blanket!!! No matter what I do, I’m the arsehole!” Hmmm…

Photo credit: Simon Tate

What sets Soft N Hard apart is that Randerson and LaHood are both clowns. Literally trained clowns, married to each other, who conceived and delivered this piece of theatre. Imagine the pillow talk! Every moment is viewed through a shattered looking glass.

They claim this is not an autobiographical play – but of course it is. By paring away the autobiographical detail, they’ve left us with the essence of  the CIS gendered in the first quarter of the 21st century. It’s about all of us…

Photo credit: Simon Tate

Kudos to the entire production team for bringing Soft N Hard to life. I can only imagine the struggles director Isobel Mackinnon had to cope with containing these two in their roles. The set appears quite simple, but there is an entire universe contained in and behind those magical yellow curtains, which, thanks to designers Owen McCarthy and Poppy Serano, actually becomes a third character in the show.

I really hate to gush… but really – go see Soft N Hard! Go for the laughs. Stay for the things that make you go “hmmm…”

Veronica McLaughlin

SOFT N HARD
Tuesday 20 – Saturday 24 August, 7.30pm
Loft at Q Theatre, 305 Queen Street, Auckland
Tickets: $22 – $29 (booking fees may apply)
Bookings: http://www.qtheatre.co.nz/ 09 309 9771

 

Watch the trailer here:

Veronica McLaughlin

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