Ich Nibber Dibber review

Theatre, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
Ich Nibber Dibber Malthouse 2018
Photograph: Jacquie Manning

Sydney-based performance collective Post unpack a decade of friendship, collaboration and silly conversations

The title is a nonsense phrase, a bit of faux-German gibberish that sounds vaguely like real words but has no inherent meaning. Of course, with a bit of contextualisation even nonsense can be encoded with meaning, and the three performers who make up the outfit post – Zoë Coombs Marr, Natalie Rose and Mish Grigor – manage to imbue the phrase with quite a bit of it; roughly translated, it comes to signify women’s work, or women’s banter, or women’s stuff. It’s a curiously satisfying title in many ways, because women’s work, banter and stuff is the show’s modus operandi as well as its subject, object and predicate.

It opens with the three performers emerging from a celestial light, all swirling white gowns and flowing locks, mounted high on plinths: a vision from a Renaissance religious painting. It’s the set up for a fairly obvious joke – when the ecclesiastic music abruptly stops they start talking and there’s nothing remotely exalted about their manner or their conversation – but it also functions as a central theme; namely, the cultural expectations women have historically been saddled with and which still exert a ludicrous power. This is a show that smuggles in a heap of smart commentary when you’re busily distracted by the silliness.

And there is a lot of silliness, much of it scatalogical: different kinds of poo, the need to examine one’s poo, the tendency for women to poo on babies during child birth, the rich tapestry of poo and pooing gets a good run. There’s an extended section on conjoined twins that is sidesplittingly funny, and manages to make hay from the shifting notions of taste and offence, but there’s also a lot of personal anecdote, from disastrous hook-ups to bizarre food cravings. Large swathes of text from John Berger, about the male gaze and the female awareness of being watched, are by no means irrelevant, but they’re an outlier in a show that celebrates gloriously inane prattle.

The performers have recorded themselves for years, usually as a means to development of new works, and the conceit here is that we’re listening to the detritus of those taped conversations; any profundity or silliness that comes out should wash over us, like the unwinding of that tape. At one point, Zoë says, “are we still doing it, or is this just talking now?” It gives the show an endearing improvisational feel, but it also points to some structural problems that eventually wear down the effect. The show – it’s not a play nor a piece of stand-up, but something caught uncomfortably in between – has only one mode, and while it’s a charming and consistently engaging one, dramatically it flatlines before the end. Nat goes for a piss at one point, and while it’s so natural it seems unscripted, it’s hard not to see it as a desperate need to alter the dynamics. So little is made of Mish and Zoë on stage alone that you wonder why they bothered.

Thankfully, all three performers are sharp and hilarious, and make for captivating hosts. Zoë constantly taps on the pane of that fourth wall as if she’s feeling for a pulse, and Mish is gloriously daggy and open-hearted. But Nat is the funniest – that’s not controversial, the program states it – and she hurls every po-faced witticism at us like an archer from her bow. Of course, it’s silly to compare them; that banter that courses through and animates great relationships is the point. The show doesn’t really end, it just fades out on women talking, and the inference is clear: it’s the wonderful and inconsequential chat between smart and funny women that truly defines the world.

By: Tim Byrne

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