“Mouthpiece follows one woman, for one day, as she tries to find her voice.” The concept sounds simple enough, but in a mere 60 minutes Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava explore timeless issues faced throughout the history of the female experience.
The set is minimal, with only a bath centre stage and a microphone downstage right. Mouthpiece is fuelled by acapella harmony, a strong script and its vibrant physicality. Admittedly, I had a different impression of what the show would be from the opening: the two performers, both in white bodysuits, begin in the bath. There is complete darkness. One performer starts to hum, with the other joining in with acapella harmonies that swirl around together; eventually dissipating into vocal fry. The lights rise, and the performers start to speak in total unison with synchronised movement: ‘My mother always told me you can cure almost anything with a hot bath. My mother died last night. My mother died last night.’
The two performers have some of the strongest and most electric chemistry you’ll see at the Fringe
This show opens with a tragic event: a woman’s mother dies. However, as both performers present the character Cassandra, and present the mundane chores of arranging a funeral, they begin to explore not only the experience of death, but also shared experiences of gender. They explore the language that shapes and reinforces gender. The use of unified voice and movement is incredibly slick and captivating, and moments of individual performance in movement and monologue are equally masterful. Amy Nostbakken performs moments of despair with her honest and raw monologues, which are some of the best moments of the play. Norah Sadava’s Cassandra is particularly mesmerizing in moments of comedic monologue. The two performers have some of the strongest and most electric chemistry you’ll see at the Fringe.
The show is enchanting, as it admits truths that many women may feel afraid to vocalize. Amy Nostbakken, as Cassandra, presents the audience with her paradoxical behaviour of hating French fries but still eating them to appear like a woman that finds dieting “beneath her”. The show draws upon (what may seem to be) trivial experiences of the complexities of womanhood to the profound and harrowing.
The show is brutally honest and sharp in its presentation of womanhood
There is a wonderful moment where Cassandra is probed about her voicing her oppression as a white, cis, heteronormative woman from Canada, funded by government arts money. This scene is one of many examples in the play where we are presented with the complexities of gendered societal issues. On the one hand, a white woman in the West needs to acknowledge her privilege, however there is also an element of this argument that can be seen as dismissive and problematic; one that can be used to shut women down elements of feminist discourse. The show is brutally honest and sharp in its presentation of womanhood: from the mundane need to appear like a “cool girl that eats French fries” to harrowing and devastating violence.
Mouthpiece is a profound piece of art. The performance serves to provide a platform for discussion and debate surrounding gender and voice, it is not just a show for women. It speaks to everyone about how they see gender, and interact with others. The show oscillates wildly, from tragic to hilarious, so that even a non ‘theatre goer’ can enjoy the stunning harmonies and movement directed by Orian Michaeli.
Mouthpiece might just be the most impressive piece of performance art you’ll see at the Fringe, and utterly worthy of the five stars we award it with.
Mouthpiece is showing at the Edinburgh Fringe, tickets can be found here.
Image: Brooke Wedlock