As a poet, I judge poems not on how they look on the page, how many syllables are in each word, or how impressively pretentious they are; no, I judge them on how they make me feel – dang, did I feel a LOT at this show. Some poets simply stand in front of you and read, others take their words and slap you with them, and Olivia Hall and Carrie Rudzinski did just that. I laughed (hysterically), I cried (hysterically), I cry-laughed (aye, hysterically), and felt everything in between.
The show begins with some well-researched, anger-inducing facts about the word hysterical and issues facing women. For example, did you know that for years, Siri could not understand the word ‘rape’? Were you aware that back in the day if a woman wanted to write creatively, the men folk would just chuck her into an asylum?
We are then treated to poems on the self and personal experience, and the duo performs some of the pieces simultaneously and others individually, giving the audience space to get to know them separately. Hall wears her heart on her sleeve, her pieces deeply personal and brimming with emotion. Rudzinski’s poems are also very personal and moving, though delivered with a different kind of intense passion; they complement each other perfectly. I ugly-cried when Hall performed The Revolution Will Not Be Self-Love and felt validated as Rudzinski gave us People Ask Me If I’m Going to Have a Baby. No topic is left untouched from She Who Shall Not Be Named to Joan, the pep-talking period. My personal highlight was the ferocious punk piece Feminist Killjoys.
The show is well-timed (in myriad ways) but it doesn’t feel too polished. This is not a criticism, far from it – they are so prepared that the performance has the feeling of being skillfully off the cuff. They can make you feel relaxed, angry, mortified and seen, with a few words and a single look. I left Hysterical feeling powerful, hopeful and ready to fucking fight for what’s right. Go and see this show. You need it.