Art Smitten

On Air

Review: A Piece for an Odd Place & The Want


Performed by The Stain, La Mama Courthouse, February 5-8.

A thick fog of green hazed smoke hung heavily in the air as the audience entered the small, intimate theatre space of La Mama’s Courthouse Theatre. The undulating beat of a drum on stage raised the hairs on the back of my neck as I took my seat to view the Thursday evening showing of A Piece For An Odd Place and The Want by The Stain.

Not confined to any particular music style or convention, let alone bound to any particular art form, The Stain is essentially a band, who mash together music with theatre, film, puppetry, punk and a healthy dose of anarchy. While the audience gradually filled the seats, a sense of mounting tension as the music grew steadily louder set the tone of the evening, before the first performance of the evening, A Piece For An Odd Place, began.  An elaborate yet simplistic performance unfurled before us, with the beguiling and androgynous female figure of Francesca Sculli undertaking the curiously demeaning task of washing her face and applying make up. Gradually, the various material items tethering her to the stage and to reality are removed from her, clever puppetry bringing to life the powder puff in her hand, the white linen blazer she wears and the pants, shirt and underclothes Sculli wears, eventually leaving her naked and exposed on the stage. A Piece For An Odd Place has been designed to speak to the audience of anticipation, hope, but also of grief and regret, and the haunting image of the suddenly animated trousers and blazer left behind by Sculli dance about in the minds of the audience as the lights are switched and the theatre is thrown into darkness.

The Want is the follow up performance for the evening; a highly charged, adrenaline ridden ride through the pioneers of rock ’n roll and punk music, celebrating the women who paved the way for musicians, artists and feminists of the future. The Stain loudly and precisely knocked out several covers of rock songs by artists such as Patti Smith and Bracode, the lead singer of which, Rebekah Zechner illuminated the stage with her fluorescent presence with her performance of Cyndi Lauper’s She Bop.

The Stain worshiped and paid thanks to the Goddesses of rock and punk who came before them through the medium of videos projected onto a screen made from sewn together white shirts. With images of Patti Smith, Suzi Quatro and Chrissy Amphlett flashing before me with sweaty, impassioned songs being belted out by the band below, there was a strong sense of respect, fury and energy riling up in both the band on stage and the members of the audience.

Sitting in the dark, at moments the bombastic, leather clad, writhing performances by the various members of The Stain seemed too much, too loud and too forced, yet I felt myself filled with a frustration at the realisation that we still are residing within a society in which women still have to shout, still have to make such a loud noise and a big fuss to just be heard and taken seriously. The Stain are belting out tunes that were first written and performed nearly 40 years ago, yet the lyrics, the passion and the pain behind those words are still relevant, perhaps even more so, in the modern day than they have ever been.

As The 50ft Queen Choir joined the band on stage for the final number, I was filled with a sense of pride and respect, not just for the talents and the passions of the members of The Stain, but also for all the women punks, rockers, feminists and fighters who had come before them.

– Made Stuchbery

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