Everything must go: papas, puppets and pathos
One of the performance editors told me she had a puppet show to review: ‘Of course!’ I said. ‘That sounds like a larf’. But, happily, the ‘puppet show’ formed only a fifth of this stunning performance from award-winning performer Kristin Fredricksson. A live art extravaganza comprising narration, film, cardboard cut-outs, wild movement and delicate puppetry, this was a one-woman-wonder portrayal of the creator’s father, Karl a man who – quite literally – showed his bloomers to orthodoxy. The necessarily unconventional performance took us on a family saga, from tricky beginnings in Wales, through the shockingly sudden death of Karl’s wife and the consequent genesis of his cross-dressing, to the solicitous ingenuity that her father developed later on in life.
Kristin first performed the show with her father, and the pair danced offstage together in the final scene. Sadly, however, Karl died in June this year (at the ripe old age of 78), and that scene was replaced with video footage of the original performance.
Kristin had already created a remarkable living memorial of her father and his story, but it now takes on a new poignancy. Why brood quietly in your bedroom and sigh at the passing of a person the world should have known, but didn’t? Show the world that person! And he was quite a man: hurdler, P.E. teacher (who covertly taught his pupils ballet), cross-dresser, player of characters, obsessive hoarder. He undoubtedly bordered on fruit-cake status, with snippets of film showing us his penchant for milk-crate collection and nipple exposure; one felt at times that his constant masquerading was almost an obstruction to his love for his daughters.
The piece having been conceived and performed before Karl’s death, the newer audiences’ perceptions of meaning within the play are inevitably transformed. Whilst Kristin’s intentions may have remained the same, her father’s passing has invested the work with an increased sense of loss and longing. This new element of mourning seemed to draw out the intensity of the love felt between father and daughter, with a gut-wrenching rawness that left the audience weeping. It is said that all people grieve in their own way and I’m sure that’s true, but Kristin really showed us a unique approach: on stage, unaided, in an hour of inspired, magic theatricality.
‘Everything Must Go’ was staged at The Basement, 24 Kensington Street. For other similarly original productions, see their December listings at