Review: This Is What You Signed Up For (Basement Theatre)
Updated: Jun 2, 2022
Audience participation can scare some. The step up from that is immersive theatre, in which the atmosphere so strong and frequently improvised it feels inescapable. Then there is one-on-one theatre. Auckland's Basement theatre has set up a studio specifically for intense performances designed to be between one performer and one audience member lasting ten minutes, including Amy Mansfield's "This Is What You Signed Up For", performed by Mika Austin. With little information given about what would actually happen, I went into this performance expecting it to be about the demanding nature of relationships.
Not in the slightest. This is a show about motherhood. It involves having a weight strapped to your belly, attending to the needs and wants of Austin playing a small child, whilst having instructions relayed to you at such a pace that they become impossible to keep up with. Added to that, a voice over blares criticism like "This place is a mess" and parenting philosophies about whether women should return to work after giving birth. After tucking up Austin in bed, you leave exhausted.
It became oddly difficult to focus on Austin herself, which was entirely the point, but that didn't take away from the fact that her ability to improvise and commit was almost unsettlingly effective. Mansfield's show brilliantly blends immediate demands with long term ones - entertaining the child, ensuring she is safe, whilst also listening to discussion about work and occasionally concerning statements from the child such as "I hope you have another baby so I can punch it in the face". It is emphasised even more by the confinement of the space prompting a sense of intimacy with the performer whilst all demands and criticism feels external by comparison.
The show is not just a statement on modern expectations of mothers, since statements may or may not leave an impression on a person. If you did not believe in the pressure of mother before, or did not fully appreciate it, you will after the engrossing experience of the performance. It is short, it is sharp, and will leave you shaken. Four stars.