Claire Fitzpatrick presented a moving one-woman performance exploring the wide-ranging emotional impacts of loss.
Seated at a small table facing the audience, Fitzpatrick performed the rituals of getting ready in the morning – brushing her hair, washing her face, applying makeup. She did not speak during the half-hour performance, which was backed by a series of songs across many artists and genres, including The Beatles and Kate Bush. Fitzpatrick occasionally sang softly with the backing track, but it was the raw intensity of emotion in her physical performance that created and maintained the momentum of the piece.
Although the show description referred to two characters, a mother and a daughter, Fitzpatrick performed as only one character as she ‘put on the mask’ – preparing for the day ahead amidst the emotional aftermath of losing a loved one.
There was a feeling of intimacy, bordering on voyeurism, as Fitzpatrick faced the audience as if she was looking in a mirror. Sitting and observing the grief and vulnerability that played out onstage felt like an intrusion, and this was the key tension of the piece.
Fitzpatrick brought a wide range of emotions to this performance, showing moments of anger, quiet reflection, and sorrow. She wiped her face, shredded a tissue in agitation, and arranged her makeup and hairbrush meticulously. She applied her makeup, and reapplied it when it became smudged by tears; she adjusted and readjusted her hair; danced and spun barefoot to the music that was playing; kicked over a chair in sudden fury; practiced a smile, a handshake, and a casual laugh as she prepared to face the day.
Putting On The Mask was a moving piece of performance art. In asking the audience to sit in the discomfort of witnessing a person grieving, it also asked them to consider the ongoing impacts of losing a loved one, and the pressure to continue with life ‘as normal’ after that loss.
Review of May 22 performance
Putting On The Mask was performed at EC Venue, Fortitude Valley, for one show only on 22 May 2022