An unnamed man walks on stage and unpacks from a suitcase women’s clothing and wigs.
IT’S the start of the creation of two very different women and a downbeat beginning to a visually stunning, if at times bewildering, hour of entertainment.
Performed by Lorenzo Piccolo, of Nina’s Drag Queens – a company based in Milan we learn the tragi-comic stories of the two women. The first, anonymous, behaves like an over-acting neurotic jilted lover – straight out of some Hollywood B movie, based on Cocteau’s La Voix Humaine.
The second and more interesting persona is Alma Mahler, widow to the famous composer, now bound manically to the artist Oscar Kokoschka, who when he can’t get enough of the real Alma, has a puppeteer and milliner make him a life-size doll of her.
It will all of course end in tears but what Lorenzo achieves brilliantly is an incisive exploration of what it is to be a woman and what it is to be a man pretending to be a woman.
Alma is at once and examination of femininity and a funny, sad poetic depiction of drag queenery.
Through mime, lip sync and achingly beautiful movement, it’s a puzzling but stunning piece of theatre. Lorenzo creates moments of statuesque stillness which take your breath away .
Alma is at Summerhall, Edinburgh throughout August.
Review by Brian Butler