Strong Lady’s Power; DOCA at St Andrews

For personal reasons Strong Lady Charmaine Childs was unable to perform her show, Power at the DOCA Street Festival this year, but came to visit Devizes as a one-off separate show in St Andrew’s Church yesterday, and it was as advertised, inspiring……

I can stagger home from a music gig already with an oven-baked opinion, and have a broad idea of what to write about it. It may take serious grammar corrections if I do jot intoxicated notes down, but the basis is there. Whereas in, as what was essentially street theatre, it takes a little time and reflection for what I just witnessed to fully sink in; that’s certainly the case with Power.

Often the fascinating world of street theatre DOCA artistic director Loz Samuels brings to us is abstract, provocative, and most importantly for our market town, completely off the wall. A Strong-Lady conjures ideas of circus, of ta-da-da…and-for-my-next-trick-type acts, of which Charmaine was keen to elucidate the roots of her talent lie there. But this was different, this was theatre, and it had an enthralling narrative.

There was no big top, crazy clown costumes, blinding stage lights, in-your-face effects, and shows of acrobatic talent were minimal, in context. There was only, at first what might appear somewhat disappointing to those in want of dazzling mainstream spectacles, just a fortysomething Australian lady in gym shorts and vest carry two tote bags of house-bricks.

I mean, yeah, props expanded to some books, planks and two wallpaper stands, but that was all you were getting. Yet, through charisma, magnetism and skill she weaved an autobiographical tapestry with audio excerpts taken from other’s personal reflections on the subject of times they felt, or didn’t feel powerful, of which she had collected on her journey, and visually created an act of tragedy, comedy, and thoughtful prose which was itself, powerful.

If there were feminine connotations, they were subtle, the message was neutral on every level, open to all. The idea we all have it within ourselves to overcome mental obstacles and have the power to continue, was prominent, though other angles like attaining power through success was touched upon, as Charmaine opened up her story, and related the recorded ones accordingly. And for the times when she did perform acts of strength and agility, they were backed with reason and relation to the monologue. She is one strong lady indeedy, yet while there was wasn’t the crowd counting along and drum rolls, these shows of strength were incorporated in such a way as not only to impress, but to provoke an emotion; there is no circus act which does this.

It was indeed something entirely different, and unable to pigeonhole, and for that alone, deserves recognition and commendation. The result was apparently, to leave the audience “energised and hopeful,” and it was indeed a positive catalyst, but more so, it was inspirational, conjuring your own stories of times you were powerful. I reminisced upon two occasions immediately afterwards, and while I could reveal them in interminable yarns, I think you’d rather me get directly to the point. You don’t want me to get all Uncle Albert on you, not on a Friday at any rate!

Needless to say, the stories differ in two basic elements, one was a time when due to a personal tragedy I had to undertake tasks I’d rather have not, nor ever expected I’d need to, whilst retaining a plastic smile, and it was, I guess, the power in me and my love for that person, to have managed. The other is less abstract and more physical, but I did once, in my younger years have one of these massive super-heroics shows of ability, accomplishing a feat I’d never even contemplate attempting, if it hadn’t been for the fact if I didn’t, I could’ve died. Now I know, if you know me, you’re thinking, na, mate, get out of town, but it is true. Now I find myself contemplating which one was more relevant to Power, which show of power was the Strong Lady getting at, mental, physical, or both? But it doesn’t matter, what matters is it got the cogs revolving, it got me mulling it over, and in turn, it evoked personal reflection in its narrative; hence I rightfully call it inspiring.


Charmaine Childs is a Strong Lady touring internationally as an independent artist since 2002. She trained in theatre at university, before focusing on outdoor arts festivals and circus/variety shows; if you get the opportunity to see this show, don’t argue with a strong lady, just go!


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