Review: Bloom Girl (MeOhMy)

Charli Burrowes as Bloom Girl

Multidisciplinary artist Charli Burrowes has christened the Talbot Theatre, part of the newly renovated Thomas Dixon Centre in West End, with her debut theatre show Bloom Girl. An 80-minute solo show written, performed, and co-produced by Burrowes and directed by Elise Lamb, Bloom Girl tackles social media, authenticity, and the distinction between making art and creating content.

Inspired by Burrowes’ own experiences as an artist sharing snippets of her life online, Bloom Girl follows the titular character, a young woman who is a writer, artist, and influencer type, as she tries to navigate the difficult terrain of online personas, the arts industry, and relationships both online and offline. The audience first meets @bloomgirl as she enters the emergency room with a bloodied nose and a melting ice-cream in her hand. As she chats with a little girl who is also waiting, the audience learns how things have unravelled to this point – a boy, a trip, a big opportunity, and a whole lot of drama.

Starting out as a writer, @bloomgirl now also creates cinematic photo series for her social media accounts, seeking to expand her artistic practice in a way that would gain more online attention and draw more people to her work. @bloomgirl’s best friend, who photographs her elaborate and visually decadent projects, doesn’t have social media and provides a voice of reason as well as a shoulder to cry on. Refusing vulnerability in her offline life despite performing it online, @bloomgirl eventually finds herself alone in a new city, stuck in an online spiral of comparing the authentic messiness of her life to the glossy highlight reel on other people’s social media and never feeling that she measures up.

The show delved into the ways in which social media harms self-esteem and amplifies insecurities, prompting people to buy whatever influencers are selling or using, from filters to fillers, in an attempt to emulate their seemingly picture-perfect lives. Bloom Girl depicted some of the effort that goes into a supposedly effortless online presence and satirised a number of influencer archetypes. It also commented on the changing landscape of creativity, how content is distinguished from art, and how artists interact and intersect with the economy of attention where influencers and other public personalities with large online followings sign book deals based on Tweets rather than manuscripts.

Burrowes premiered a short film of the same name (available to watch here) in 2019, but while there are some recurring themes and imagery – the dropped ice-cream and heart-shaped balloon, the miles of red tulle, the desperate pursuit of experiencing life in ways she thinks she should – there is minimal crossover between the two. In addition to the stage show, a selection of Burrowes’ visual art is being exhibited at the Thomas Dixon Centre for the duration of the season, complemented by floral design by Bart Hassam of Brisbane’s Maison Fleur.

Physical theatre and minimalist set design was used to effectively imply a range of settings and scenarios throughout the show. Neon signage and black boxes at varying levels formed the set, but under Lamb’s direction Burrowes used the full breadth of the stage space.

Sound design used notification sounds in tandem with the neon lighting to indicate messages that moved the plot forward, and also to indicate a change in character as Burrowes delivered lines from a series of people in @bloomgirl’s world. Pre-recorded dialogue was used for the little girl in the waiting room, but the performance was largely an ongoing monologue and Burrowes effectively embodied a number of characters in addition to @bloomgirl.

Bloom Girl was a polished performance with a clear message about how we curate and cultivate our online lives, performed with simple but effective staging and supported by a number of additional creative works, from art prints and floral arrangements to short film.

Bloom Girl was performed at the Talbot Theatre, Thomas Dixon Centre, from 4 – 11 February 2023 and will also tour to Melbourne, Sydney, Edinburgh, and London

For more information, visit the Bloom Girl website

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