Review: Scott Wings’ Whiplash

When experiencing a Scott Wings performance, whether it’s a one-off piece on an open mic or a full-blown show, you’re guaranteed two things: playful language, and playful use of the body. It’s all bound up together. Whiplash, Wings’ latest show, now on at The Butterfly Club provides all of that, and more.

We can’t say exactly define what ‘that more’ is because like many of his shows, his improvisation ensures that each show is unique. This show’s latest iteration, with one more performance tonight, at an iconic performance venue, indicates that it’s ready for a broader audience, as well as continuing to have artists there too.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it at various stages of its development – from parts being performed at Wings’ ‘Passionate Tongues’ feature, to a preview in his lounge room/performance venue, Cathaus. The changes made and charting its development is part of the joy, as an audience member, and also the closest analogue a live performance gets to having a ‘director’s cut’, albeit one that appears before the ‘final’ cut. Like a true follower of Scotty’s work, I find myself mentioning to a few people afterwards that I got to see earlier versions of the show, which I admit, feels like the kind of brag you’d expect from The Simpsons comic book guy character.

Whiplash continues to explore themes of mental health that he’s touched on in his previous shows and work (Icarus Falling, Colossi) and touches on some particulars of his own life that connects with other artists facing similar, envisioned struggles. To parallel the way the show is produced, the physicality of the body is used as a central motif to navigate travel to his physical heart, and what we understand ‘hearts’ do, on an emotional level.

His narrative mixes and blends several elements – at times, there is stark poetic imagery, mixed with dynamic bodily movement to music, neither fully theatrical nor dance. This isn’t your regular one-man show with a guy on stage, delivering a linear story with the appropriate actions. For instance, when he describes a bike accident, it’s as if he’s about to front flip on stage, then in another, where Sia’s song ‘Elastic Heart’ blasts and he mimes giving his heart to audience members, before breaking it in two. These moments of less linear narration add emotional colour and texture in ways reciting words can’t achieve alone. The interplay of these sequences between the major spoken words section is deeply intentional.

In comparison to other works of Scott’s I’ve seen, ‘Whiplash’ feels less linear overall, and less dependent on a story arc or a linear narrative. There’s a sense that there’s this poem on the stage, and it’s still changing, moving, developing. Its sense of imperfection is deliberate, to convey the feeling of a narrative that is still unresolved, and in keeping with real, ‘lived’ narratives off-stage.

Whiplash is currently showing once more at The Butterfly Club tonight at 8.30pm

Annie Solah