Writer: Anita Giovannini
You’ll never forget the evening you enjoyed a once in a lifetime audience with Anita Luna, aka The Diva, a woman who can sing, dance, recite poetry, perform and pose like the fabulous star that she is. Anita Giovannini’s show at the Etcetera Theatre, part of the Camden Fringe, is an eclectic, eccentric and surprising experience that asks the audience to jump right in – just don’t expect any water wings.
A late-night fringe show is always tricky territory, often the slot for the mot explicit and the oddest performances, but equally challenging for the performer where attendance can be hugely variable. So, full credit to Giovannini who puts on one hell of a show for her unfairly small 9.30pm audience of just four, taking time to connect with everyone individually and exuding enough energy to sustain a group ten times the size.
How to describe Anita Luna…well, there are five distinct costumes and related personas that the character adopts. As she dons a new dress, wig and make-up, Anita reintroduces herself to the audience in the guise of the woman newly constructed before us. It’s a bold beginning as a fully naked Giovannini performs a movement piece set to opera, followed by a comedy performance as her own father eating dinner, a full white lace ensemble that ends with a Dietrich-style number, a 1930s Hollywood siren, and finally a Norma Desmond diva who wants to die onstage.
As random as these creations appear, there is an embedded love for and understanding of performance, with Giovannini’s show referencing vaudeville, cabaret and Commedia dell’arte in the mix of physical theatre, music and gymnastic dance, as well as film noir and melodrama. The costume changes, though lengthy, are part of the show, a ritualistic summoning and disposal of character, of dressing-up and transforming that is an essential aspect of the strange effect this production creates.
There are some connections to string it altogether; a childhood tale of tomboyishness and learning self-love, the careful selection of an audience member to act as Anita’s personal assistant for the night which provides some filler while gowns are replaced, and plenty of drama as The Diva performs. The show is absolutely nuts and really anything could happen next, but Giovannini is so charismatic and kind that you can’t help but love her enthusiasm.
By the end of the night, one audience member has willingly donated their trousers, another is in possession of a thumb-imprinted orange and everyone has stared into the eyes of The Diva as she struts and shimmies through the audience, getting as close as she can to everyone before leading her small band of devotees in a final group dance. A tough slot and very unlucky on the audience size but Giovannini made the most of it, long live the diva!
Runs until 29 August 2021