Beneath The Bikini
Ottawa Fringe Festival
“Beyond the Bikini” is a funny, poignant personal monologue show about the true story of ‘Bikini Kate’, the founder of the Orlando Fringe Bikini Advertising Space (a quasi-performance, brilliantly innovative idea that offers Fringe artists in Orlando, Florida to paint on various parts of her body to promote their shows).
The concept of Bikini Advertising is very clever, and Katie Thayer is an adept storyteller, who draws the audience into her story. Unlike many personal monologue stories at this year’s festival, Thayer’s piece does not descend into ‘therapy theatre’ (a genre where the actor appears to be using the performance to work through their unresolved issues). It stays personal, yet just impartial enough to be effective. Thayer chose not to focus on her sexuality, and was unapologetic about her relationship choices (older/married/troubled). Not dwelling on this kept the narrative focused on Thayer’s body image and her relationship with her grandmother. Both of these topics clearly resonated with the audience, from the emotional response I observed.
Thayer is an adept performer, and effortlessly captures (and keeps) the attention of the audience. The bikini concept is interesting (she was also costumed in a bikini), and Thayer talking about what she liked and didn’t like about her body while we could actually see so much of it, was very effective.
What did not work about this show was the singing. Thayer has a sweet voice, but the backing tracks she used were often too high or low for her voice to appear to its best advantage. And in three of them, she appeared to start in a completely different key as the tracks, switching partway. There were also too many songs, which detracted from the excellent narrative instead of punctuating it with music. Cutting the show down to four songs (and perhaps using a microphone so that the new lyrics she wrote can be clearly understood by the audience) would turn this very good show into an excellent piece of theatre.