Image by Joseph Mayers

REVIEW: Betty Grumble – Enemies of Grooviness Eat Shit

Craig Slist and Betty Grumble, Image by Joseph Mayers
Review by Cicely Binford

The last time we saw Betty Grumble (Emma Maye Gibson) was at FRINGE WORLD in 2019 with her show Love and Anger, so fans of the outrageous sex clown have waited three outrageous years for her return to Boorloo. And return she did, triumphantly, to rapturous audiences for four nights at The Rechabite with her magnum opus (so far), Enemies of Grooviness Eat Shit.

Enemies begins surreptitiously with Grumble moving to the stage through the audience without fanfare and loosening herself up with a bit of a groove while the hall settles. The song ends and she introduces herself; she’s casual, cool, but entirely in control of herself, her audience, and the energy that holds everything together.

Image by Joseph Mayers

The Grumble of 2022, of Enemies, is less Grumble and more Gibson, and her command of the energies that coalesce and converge during a performance has evolved profoundly. Gibson has dismantled Grumble, stepped to one side of her, and paid loving tribute to Grumble’s utility in helping her process a bucketload of love and anger. She invites an audience member to co-create Grumble once again by painting the Grumble clown face on Gibson while she sings. She dons a well-worn t-shirt and drapes a stole made of sewn-together curly blonde Grumble wigs around her shoulders. Grumble is still present throughout the piece, but she is a totem, and Gibson the artist comes to the fore in all her groovy glory.

She invokes the spirits of many women who have had particular impact on her as an artist – Candy Royalle (poet and activist), Annie Sprinkle (performance artist and sexologist), Elizabeth Burton (striptease artist), her mother – and performs a ritual like none you’ve (likely) ever seen on any stage or public space. She reveals with candour and poetry the anguish that seeking justice for an assault by a loved one has brought her, and she shows us through a cleansing ritual of water and dance that her clown soul is indomitable.

Image by Joseph Mayers

Grumble is supported throughout the night by Craig Slist, who serves as musician, backup dancer, and ritual assistant. They both wear space disco assless-chapped costumes designed by Haus of Helmutti, with Grumble’s being convertible and configurable to her needs during the show. As a production, Enemies has an effortless and seamless feel to it, a testament to the dramaturgical team and Gibson’s evolution as a performance maker.

There are emotional highs with joy and laughter, and lows with tears and grief. Grumble shares the eco-sexual energy from her body to our bodies, inviting us through a portal to experience a life-affirming, shame-free zone of glamour spells, orgasms, shit, paint, poetry and Grooviness.