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May 28, 2007 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

50 Minutes With Ivanja Dabrowska

Performed by Ciara Mulholl
BATS Theatre
May 22 – May 26

It was almost like The Tyra Banks Show, or as Ivanja preferred, Martha Stewart. A lifestyle show hosted by a ‘Russian Dominatrix with a soft touch’. Even a touch of Ellen was in there with the dancing and accompanying band. We were given the safe word of Full Cream and the leather corset-clad Ivanja was away.

A rendition of the Sesame Street theme song led us into a lesson on how to make lamingtons. I was actually quite surprised at how easy it really is. Wellington and New Zealand jokes were rife with the anti-smacking bill thrown in and “Absolutely Positively Wellington” became about HIV. A question and answer segment slowly warmed up and inevitably toilet humour was employed, which was a bit of a turn off. A history of Russia and Ivanja’s childhood was nostalgically retold, revealing that Rasputin was actually a sex machine and that widows got to wear their dead husbands’ foreskin as scrunchies.

The two piece band, of drums and keyboard, were an amusing pair. Their musical moments were amusing support and relief from Ivanja’s dominating presence on stage. It was a good time to be female when it came to the predictable moment of an audience volunteer for spanking. I felt a bit sorry for the guy who ended up bent over a chair as Ivanja sung around him and whipped him with various ‘toys’.

Mulholland’s intergration of New Zealand puns kept the audience happy. Her improvisation and acknowledgement of theatre aspects such as the script and malfunctioning props made her character more real. The structure was a little jumpy, and with the Russian accent was hard to follow at times but can also be considered effective keeping in mind she is a dominatrix, not Oprah. The men in the audience (of about my parents age) seemed to be enjoying themselves though.

Even the guy sitting next to me got to whip some cream in a jar for the lamingtons. “To spank, or not to spank? There is no question.” I’ll go with not to spank, thanks. However it was worth a laugh or two to watch.


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