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October 18, 2009 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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Biography of My Skin


Expectations figure very heavily in Miranda Harcourt’s biographical new one-woman show Biography of My Skin. People’s expectations of each other, of themselves, of their lives, of their children and, possibly most importantly, an audience’s expectations of their entertainment. Biography of My Skinmakes a lot of never being quite what you thought it would be and is all the more strong because of it.

Miranda Harcourt in 'Biography of My Skin'

Miranda Harcourt in 'Biography of My Skin'

From the outside, any analysis of the publicity material would easily draw anyone to the conclusion that this was yet another pensive naval gaze about life and responsibility and being a working mother and crying and all that heavily treaded ground. But director Tim Spite, writer Stuart McKenzie (Harcourt’s husband) and Harcourt herself are all far too smart and too talented to make anything that boring or predictable.

Much mileage is mined from the almost dictomous fact that while this is Harcourt’s story the word’s are her husbands. McKenzie’s voice very much becomes its own character within the piece, as do many others. You see, Biography of My Skinis surprisingly populous for a one person show. Framed by a large screen on which various other people comment on the action. It is very easy for theatrical works to get a bit obsessed with such gimmicks and, to be honest, I am still not a hundred percent sold that Biography of My Skin would have been a lesser show without the A/V, masterfully produced as it was.

In fact, it is worth mentioning now, that the design of Biography of My Skin is consistently excellent. So, big props to Paul O’Brien (Lighting), Robert Larsen (AV Design), Thomas Press (Sound and Music) and Andrew Foster (Set).

The biggest surprise, for me, what how light this show was. While there are moments of real emotional weight, there is a real sense of fun and humour running through the show which balanced well with the more serious moments.

The real faults of the show are minor; the non-linear story is a bit foggier than it needs to be, especially if you’re not intimately knowledgeable with Harcourt’s career and personal history. Also, sometimes the tech of the show veers annoyingly close to becoming a self-conscious, distracting gimmick. At points it almost seems as if McKenzie and Harcourt feel they are revealing too much and need to hide behind the screen. Luckily these moments are few and far better and I would recommend Biography of My Skin to anyone.

Biography of My Skin
Written by Stuart McKenzie
Directed by Tim Spite
With Miranda Harcourt

At Downstage
9 -31 Oct 2009
Book here.

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About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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He Tāonga

:   I wanted to write this piece, in order to connect to all tauira within the University, with the hope that we can all remind ourselves that we are a part of an environment which is valuable, no matter our culture, our beliefs or our skin colour. The ultimate purpose of this