Reviews

To give you an idea of whether or not you might enjoy my work, here are some reviews.

Pearls

Review of Pearls by Rachael Mead, InDaily, February 2018

 … With nothing but her memories and warm-hearted charm, Crisp keeps the audience spellbound for the entire 50-minute performance. The spare staging and performance style (directed by Ross Vosvotekas) holds the focus on the portrait Crisp paints of her mother’s life and lessons learned from growing up in her orbit.

This is live storytelling at its best–riveting in detail and viscerally devastating when touching on its broader themes of grief and the patchwork of memories we are left with when a loved one is gone, clutching for any object we think might bring them close once more.

Other reviews of Pearls

Pearls was the first monologue I wrote, and when I first performed it in 2018 it had good audiences thanks to lovely friends and family, but it didn’t get much media traction.  when I performed it at the Adelaide Fringe 2018. In 2021 I staged it again, this time in the beautiful setting of the international rose garden at the Botanic Gardens as part of the Black Box Theatres. I was deeply moved by the response it got from audiences and from the people who wrote about it after they’d seen it. Besides the gorgeous review by Rachael Mead in InDaily, I loved the five croissant response of Matilda Marsellaise and as I listened to Virginie the Frenchie give her review on Radio Adelaide I was transfixed (a transcript of that review is available on Weekend Notes). The ever-fascinating Chuck Moore Reviews About also came along.

The Forgettory

Review of The Forgettory by Louise NunnThe Advertiser, February 2019

5/5

South Australian playwright Tracy Crisp’s stories of memory and family are so vivid and affecting in The Forgettory they stay with you long after the theatre lights fade.

Crisp, a South Australian novelist, made her playwriting debut with a show called Pearls at last year’s Fringe. 

This new work reveals the depth of her talent; not only did she write The Forgettory but–under director Maggie Wood–she performs it herself, beautifully.

A monologue in four parts, Crisp, above, ranges over generations of her family while musing on life under four broad themes–insomnia, birth, death and dementia.

We’re right there when she struggles to sleep during the small hours in Abu Dhabi, holds her baby close before he undergoes surgery, gets tips from her grandfather on the art of photography, then watches as his most precious possession–his memory–falters with age.

Her reflections on growing up in SA bring the state to life in a way we don’t often see on stage, and while Crisp delivers her work with love and care, it never feels sentimental.

Add a sense of humour to keep you on your toes and the night is complete.

Other reviews of The Forgettory

I was thrilled with reviewers’ responses to The Forgettory. I loved Heather Taylor-Johnson’s review in Indaily especially her opening, “I expected the one-woman show to be a lyric monologue, which it is, but I also thought it might be a showy spoken word event and therefore prepared myself to be unsurprised. I was wrong.” It’s good to be surprising, especially if the surprise is a good one. I also loved Samela Harris’s review in The Barefoot Review partly because she says “She’s whimsical, witty, perceptive, and erudite and she has a glorious way with words” which is exactly how I’d want to be described, but also because she notes the strength of Maggie’s direction saying, “it’s artful, subtle, and effective.” I have very little (almost no) acting experience, so Maggie’s direction is crucial in helping me make The Forgettory work on stage. 

The Forgettory attracted more reviews than any of my other work has done, including this review on Glam Adelaide; this one on HiFi Way Pop Chronicles; and this really interesting one on Chuck Moore’s facebook page

I Made an Adult

Review of I Made an Adult by Ewart Shaw, The Advertiser, February 2020

Cheap jokes, well told, bold performer and audience in complicity. She throws in a few at the start of this show but there’s rare and valuable humour to come. It’s midnight and she’s baking a special birthday cake, from the legendary Women’s Weekly book of special birthday cakes. Her youngest son is turning 18, and she talks about making an adult because now he is one.

Their travels and travails become a meditation on motherhood, love and that awareness that you must love them for ever and prepare them to leave you for good. Her delivery is superb, her observations honest.

Her husband Adrian gets a few words at the start but it’s her story all along. Even a childless man can respond to her tale.

One day Felix and Leo, such strong and fortunate names, may turn up at the Bakehouse in a show: ‘My mother, the making of me’.

Review of I Made an Adult by Jude Hines, Stage Whispers, February 2020

 …The fourth in a quarter of plays, this 50 minute gem is a warm, loving and beautifully drawn story…The use of well chosen, sometimes poignant photos, enriches and illuminates the polished, often very moving, or at times, very funny, dialogue. 

Thoughtfully directed by Maggie Wood, and conceived and performed by Crisp, you could be forgiven for assuming that Crisp is a full-time actor. Her delivery is nuanced, fluent and seamless … Her command of words is genius.

This is a ‘must see’ show for anyone who has, wants, or has had children. It is also a wonderful piece of theatre delivered by a very talented author, mother, wife and performer.

An Evening with the Vegetarian Librarian

Review of An Evening with the Vegetarian Librarian by Isabella Fowler, The Advertiser, February 2020

Tracy Crisp’s 2020 Fringe offering is a skilful blend of humour and pathos intertwined with charming South Australianisms. 

The third in her series of memoir-monologues, An Evening with the Vegetarian LIbrarian follows a wry and mildly passive aggressive lover of literature stuck in the frustrating bureaucracy of an HR debacle.  

A woman with a knack for wordplay, the way in which Crisp weaves book titles throughout is inspired, and the dark background plot of a dead librarian (much more a nuisance than a tragedy) downright hilarious. 

As she comments on the unending boomer-millenial social struggle, plights of the digital world and memories of a 70s childhood–Crisp has the audience captured from the moment the lights dim.

Make no mistake–this is a performance written by a Gen-Xer for Gen X-ers, but as a millennial with limited background knowledge of a fraction of the material, it still had me rapt from start to finish. 

An Evening with the Vegetarian Librarian is clever, beautifully written with sentences lyrical in structure, and simple in its delivery–the booming laughter from Bakehouse Theatre’s Studio a testament to Crisp’s unique craft. 

Review of An Evening with the Vegetarian Librarian by Jan Kershaw, Glam Adelaide, February 2020

This fabulous show by Adelaide actor, writer and now also funeral celebrant, Tracy Crisp is the final piece in her trilogy of almost true, memoir performances. It maintains the high standard of writing and production seen in Pearls 2018 and Forgettory last year. Both these previous shows were virtually sold out and this one deserves to be just as popular with four shows already sold out.

What is so telling about the stories we hear is that we can identify with them – with the possible exception of the Head Librarian’s sad demise…

Although it was, of course, a monologue I felt as though the performance was really a dialogue with the audience where individuals could relate to these, in many ways, unspectatular life events and respond to the speaker, sometimes silently and at other times with hearty laughter.

Do book soon and enjoy a funny yet poignant production, brilliantly performed.

Surrogate

Review of Surrogate by Katharine England, The Advertiser, 20 January 2018

…both these novels–Adelaide writer Crisp’s second, Melbourne author Evans’s fourth–are highly topical and engaging. Crisp’s in particular you might be tempted to read at a sitting, for it moves rapidly between two time frames, concentrating on pivotal events and imbuing them with a strong local atmosphere …

Crisp’s novel neatly encapsulates some of the most emotive issues around motherhood, making them vivid and intense with personal and local detail: unmarried girls sequestered like slaves in a far-flung Finders Ranges town until their newborns cane be taken from them; an increasingly fraught private surrogacy arrangement between people who hardly know each other; a young woman who has mentally jettisoned fertility in favour of a beloved father-figure; an insecure older woman confronting breast cancer.

There are situations rife with opportunities for exploitation, extreme hurt and emotional blackmail, but most of Crisp’s characters treat one another with exemplary tenderness and care. There is much for Adelaide readers to recognise in Crisp’s largely wintry scenarios–the (old) Adelaide Hospital, Jetty Rd, The Parade, the Esplanade at Brighton, the local train network, Centennial Park cemetery–but there are also more general settings realised in the rich and intimate detail of texture, sense and smell. And (…) there is a telling moment of disclosure, a decision tensely awaited and satisfyingly revealed at the poignant climax of the book.

Black Dust Dancing

Review of Black Dust Dancing by Gillian DooleyRadio Adelaide, 7 August 2009

Adelaide’s Tracy Crisp has set her first novel in a fictional town very like Port Pirie, and though she is also a standup comedian as well as a writer, Black Dust Dancing is really no laughing matter.

The novel centres around two women. Caro is a doctor, the widow of Sean, a man from Port Joseph who has recently died, quite young, from an unspecified disease, in their Adelaide home. Caro has decided to move to Port Joseph with her fifteen-year-old daughter, to work in a general practice there and to try to develop a better relationship with her husband’s family, especially her mother-in-law Libby.

Heidi is younger, in her early twenties. She is about to marry into the same family. Her fiance, Joel, is Sean’s much younger brother. She lives with her father, since her mother abandoned them years ago, and her four-year-old son Zac, the result of an unplanned teenage pregnancy. At the beginning of the novel she and Zac are returning from an uncomfortable holiday with her mother in Queensland. Persuaded by her mother that Zac is not as healthy as he could be, Heidi consults Caro, who discovers that the boy’s lead levels are dangerously high.

The people in this small town don’t give up their secrets lightly, and silence is a lead weight in the closest of relationships. The narrative often proceeds by means of extended descriptions of the trivia of life–a trip to the hairdressers, a day spent doing housework–with a telling sentence or two dropped into the flow of banalities.

Reading Black Dust Dancing is a little like being at a large family gathering where you hardly know anyone and no-one introduces you. Nothing is ever explained, and we only find out about relationships–and they are tense and complicated in this small town–by eavesdropping on conversations and drawing implications from the though processes of the two main characters. For example, it seems probable that Sean’s illness is the same disease that is killing Zac’s grandfather, and it seems possible that it is linked to the high lead levels in the town, but nobody ever actually says that. And there’s Auntie Barb who was on the scene after Heidi’s mother left, but we don’t find out whether she was a real aunt, or whether Heidi’s obvious but muted resentment of her was caused by an attempt to introduce a mother-substitute. I assume that Crisp is firmly wedded to the creative writing dogma of ‘show don’t tell’, and though I don’t believe that creative writing necessarily has to follow these rules, and that any such rules can stifle creativity, it’s actually a highly effective technique in Crisp’s hands, because it engages the intellect as well as the emotions.

Black Dust Dancing could appear to be a fairly simply morality tale about the conflict between loyalty and making a principled stand. But it’s surprisingly deep and its economy and the lucidity of its language are stunning when you consider the complexities it contains.

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