Waterloo is a whacky, one-woman show by Bron Batten detailing her affair with a conservative military official. Raw and brutally honest, Batten speaks directly to the audience throughout and makes it clear she wants to throw everyone in the room head-first into her story. Whilst I admire the honesty and self reflection, the artistic choices were so jarring that I found myself struggling to maintain interest.

Ultimately a peculiar and almost irritating

Batten begins blindfolded and one wrist bound behind her back by an audience member, along with others blowing up and throwing balloons onto the stage. This appears, initially, as mysterious and fun, but very quickly descends into something strange and, frankly, unenjoyable. She crawls around the stage, thrusting her knife blindly at the balloons in the hope of bursting them, all whilst narrating her early encounter with the army official, amusingly named Sergeant Troy. This becomes much too long, and is ruined by the technician frequently having to warn her against accidentally striking people in the front row. The incessant bangs of bursting balloons makes this uncomfortable, as I struggled to focus on what was being said out of anticipation for the next pop. Batten gets us involved in a multitude of ways, having us fill out a quiz to represent a democracy, whilst others were ruled by a singular audience member who threw ping pong balls into ‘yes’ or ‘no’ labelled buckets; this represented a dictatorship. Whilst this is certainly unique and yes, pushes us to confront our political standpoints, as Batten had to do throughout the affair, it ultimately feels directionless. It seems to prove no point by comparing an autocracy to democracy, getting the audience involved merely for the sake of it. Batten’s cynicism is entertaining at points and helps certain jokes to land well, but her tone quickly becomes monotonous, and these audience participation methods appear as an attempt to make up for her lack of dynamism in her delivery.

The explosions do not stop there, as Batten fills a wheelie bin full of these ping pong balls, creating a huge eruption through using liquid nitrogen. This is visually beautiful, but again seems pointless and only there to make the show appear daring or unique. Batten is vulnerable in her honest, spiralling thoughts surrounding Sergeant Troy’s family, his political views and army involvement. I enjoyed this moment of weakness from her, really encouraging us to question what we would do in her position, and how love or attraction pushes us to act against our morals. However, Batten ends the show with another visual, loud gag that left me feeling fed up with the onslaught of rattling expressionistic choices.

Whilst certainly being unique, Batten’s Waterloo is ultimately a peculiar and almost irritating watch.

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Reviews by Eleanor Sumner

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The Blurb

Award-winning performer Bron Batten wrestles with love and war in an explosive interrogation of her ill-fated affair with a conservative military official. A bittersweet romance crossed with an action blockbuster ‘far more than a story of unlikely lovers… Astonishing’ **** (Time Out). ‘Will have you both belly laughing and questioning your own beliefs… Not for the faint hearted’ (StageWhispers.com.au). Winner: Summerhall Edinburgh Touring Award, 2019; Arts House Evolution Award, Melbourne Fringe Festival 2019; Best Theatre Category Award, Perth Fringe Festival 2020. Waterloo is supported by the Australian Government as part of the UK/Australia Season 2021-22.

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