Trying on Your Dead Mother’s Underwear
Review by Kelly J Clark – Showbill.ca Writer
November 16, 2016
Trying on Your Dead Mother’s Underwear is a the victory we need today. Erin Cotton finishes her one woman show to a standing ovation. She beams, bashful from the praise, yet sweaty and triumphant, amidst the confettied ruins of a symbolic “box” representing gendered oppression.
Erin Cotton and director Graham McDonald have created a beautiful, immersive experience with nothing more than a few scarce props, a pop soundtrack and some clever lighting. The entire production is humbly sincere and feels more like a warm, personal conversation than it does a play. Cotton involves the audience, posits questions, and asks for help destroying the aforementioned box; a request made with such undeniable charm, it is a wonder the entire audience doesn’t mob the stage.
Cotton retells the story of her life, from puberty to transition, first crushes to first heartbreaks, in an immersive prose punctuated by rounds of aggressive, electrified slam poetry. She’s at her most comfortable during these poetic rants, which evoke her years of performance on local stages. The narrative portions are excellent as well, but during these Cotton sometimes seems nervous, and rushes through or flubs lines because of that. The narration could be smoother as she jumps back and forth between time periods and the end is more abrupt than it should be, but overall the story flows very well when it’s not shifting gears.
These minor problems all would be worked out in a second or third performance, but alas: this is a single-portion showing from Intrepid Theatre’s You Show program and that is the show’s greatest weakness. This show deserves to be performed again. We deserve more. Cotton would be very wise to save this play, sharpen the very few dull points, and bring it back later. This is the kind of production that would absolutely kill at a Fringe.
The Bottom Line
There’s a lot going on here, but nothing more important than the underlying message of the show: the hope that one day the world will be a better place for everyone. Cotton dreams of raising her children in a world where they simply cannot comprehend that there ever was a stigma around being LGBTQ+, and what a beautiful dream that is.