Citizen Pochsy: Head Movements of a Long-Haired Girl

Acid meditations from Citizen Pochsy


Citizen Pochsy: Head Movements Of A Long- Haired Girl
Theatre: Pochsy Productions at Workshop West's
KaBoom Festival
Directed by: John Turner
Starring: Karen Hines

Kafka finds his inner clown in the macabre black comedy that opens Workshop West's KaBoom3 Festival. The face of an angel, the heart of avenging fury ... meet Pochsy, the kewpie with a toxic 50-50 cocktail of charm and vitriol pumping through her tiny veins.

If you haven't encountered the smudge-eyed waif before - in Pochsy's Lips, where she waltzes onto stage swathed in bandages and attached to an intravenous pole, or Oh, Baby, where she's convalescing on vacation at The Last Resort - rush over to La Cité francophone tonight. If you have, you won't need to be told. Toronto's Karen Hines is an astonishing artist, both as a writer and performer. Her acid meditation on our modem confusion, narcissistic insecurities and market-driven hunger for the quick-fix comes via the sugary smile and breathlessly baby-doll ways of a fully formed character. You will laugh, a lot, and Pochsy will help you be dismayed at your laugh lines.

This latest solo appearance, a prequel of sorts to her other two, finds the employee of Mercury Packers (a subsidiary of Lead World) in a ruminative frame of mind. Like Kafka's Joseph K, she has been summoned. "It was the government calling," she whispers melodramatically, round eyes widening at the sinister machinations of the world. "And I don't even vote."

Now she's in a waiting room, waiting to be audited - "reassessed" she says, providing the knowing quotation marks, hands fluttering like little wings. The possibility of hostile scrutiny puts her in mind for an all-embracing philosophical self-justification. "In spite of everything that's happened, I have to believe that people are good at heart," she says earnestly, echoing Anne Franks famous heartbreaker. Echoing? Pochsy is virtually a human echo chamber for the slogans, , the self-help truisms, the catchphrases of the age. She thinks she might be a neo-Buddhist or maybe a post-Buddhist. "I've moved beyond that whole pursuit of nirvana thing," she says, cutting to the chase: "I just want to live long enough to be young and beautiful forever."

Aging obsesses her. She's shocked by a strange street encounter; the woman's voice was "weird," and "there was something very wrong with her skin. Then, I realized (dramatic pause) she was old." Pochsy's mind whirls through motherhood ("I don't want to be life-giving; I want to be breath-taking"), world poverty, environmental disasters, over-population, unexploded landmines, child abuse, and dismisses them to address a more pressing, i.e. personal, existential crisis. "These are my saving years. And I need a plan that's right for me." What follows is a surreal torch song about the banking industry. The faux-innocence of the self-obsessed makes it quite natural that Pochsy would have a grand piano and a superb musician (Greg Morrison) at her disposal.

The highlight of a brilliant piece of play construction is the whirling, climactic vision of urban chaos direct to us from the murky labyrinth of Pochsy's brain. The glittering rant of it will remind you of Martin Amis's London Fields or Steven Berkoff's Greek as Pochsy climbs into her silver Pontiac Impatience, and drives on and on, past hospitals where patients administer cardiac paddles to each other, or oil-slick streets where cyclists careen aerially into the sides of Acuras.

As Pochsy sheds her coat, then jacket, in a range of seductive moves, you note a Band-aid in the crook of her arm, the kind you get when you give a blood sample. You just know it came out black and toxic.

Citizen Pochsy: Head Movements of a Long-Haired Girl

Pochsy's, um, superfunny

Citizen Pochsy: Head Movements of a Long-Haired Girl

At the Firehall Arts Centre
Tickets: 604-689-0926
Reviewed by Jo Ledingham

She's a mini-skirted, longhaired minx with a cupid mouth and her name is Pochsy. How white-skinned she is, how sparkly and long-lashed her eyes, and how shiny and cherry-red her lips. But poor, poor Pochsy: she's being audited. Reclassified as self-employed (and we can all guess why) by Mercury Packers where she, yes, packs mercury, Pochsy has reported several deductions on her tax return-like hair products and hand cream-that have set off alarms at RevCan. So now she finds herself with a box of receipts and a big purse full of bottled water, HandiWipes, snacks and beauty products waiting alone in the auditor's reception area. Citizenship comes with responsibility, she muses, so she guesses the audit is OK. On the other hand, she argues, "I'm a citizen and everything - but I don't even vote."

You gotta love Pochsy. Because if you don't you might dislike her. With her "gym-firm flesh" and a little dress on layaway at KinderSlut, she's a completely self-absorbed "neo-Buddhist" or "post-Buddhist" or, um, whatever. She's an, um, vegetarian. No, she's uh, hmm, "I only eat veal."

Lately she's been thinking about "deeper meaning and blahbiddy blah" even though she's been "super busy"- too busy to keep up her $20/month payments for the foster care of a Third World, 11-year-old girl whose name she can't remember. Pochsy can't remember a lot of things and increasingly, throughout what might be subtitled Waiting for the Auditor, she uses an inhaler: "It's for, um. It's for, ah. It's for - oh yes, clarity."

Presented by Ruby Slippers Theatre, Pochsy is writer/performer Karen Hines' stage persona and a bitterly funny voice for expressing 21st century angst in all its forms: environmental degradation, marketplace morality, spiritual decay, unhappiness, uncertainty and loneliness. Hines keeps it darkly funny-the kind of funny that has you laughing not at what Pochsy says but laughing because Hines is outrageous enough to say it.

Best and most provocative of all is the enigma that is Pochsy. While we may not shop at KinderSlut, who among us hasn't tried to look younger or sexier? We may not drive our cars across the street to work-like Pochsy does-but who hasn't taken the car to the corner store for a litre of milk on a rainy night? Who among us hasn't begun a well-intentioned act of charity and failed to follow through? Tried traditional religion, yoga, transcendental meditation and a plethora of other spiritual paths? And who, in this world, in this "dangerous place" hasn't longed for God - or someone - to find him or her? Is Pochsy simply mad-keeping in mind she handles mercury that gave rise to the expression "mad as a hatter"? Or is Pochsy "supersane" as well as super busy? Is her maxim "The future is now, it just hasn't happened yet" some pop culture gobbledygook or a challenge to seize the opportunity today to make the world a better place tomorrow?

You simply can't dismiss Pochsy: she is, as she says, "only human." And it's clear, by the end of Citizen Pochsy, that the audit she faces is the really big one, one of the true certainties - right up there with taxes. Not surprisingly, she can't remember the other one.

Citizen Pochsy: Head Movements of a Long-Haired Girl

Pochsy a gem that's as funny as hell


At the Firehall Arts Centre, 280 E. Cordova


Pochsy is a good citizen who's about to be audited. While she waits in fear we stare in astonishment, as this mix of vixen and philosopher (who can't decide if she's neo- or post-Buddhist) lets loose in a 90-minute rant peppered by brittle Brechtian songs. Run to see it, because this gem only sparkles until Saturday.

Toronto writer/performer Karen Hines creates a character so disturbed and disturbing that it's a good thing Pochsy is also funny as hell. She starts out garbed in a look that says "look away" but soon displays enough of both her taut body and loosygoosy mindset to make us gasp at how garrulously goofy a young Canadian gal can be. Pochsy drives to work at the Mercury factory, even though she lives across the street from it, and that's only one of the infinite ways she is in our universe, but not really of it.

John Turner of Mump & Smoot fame directs Citizen Pochsy, returning the favour since Hines directs his shows, and much in evidence here are the same dark thematics of those twisted clowns. Pochsy talks to us of love and God (and not just one god, either, in a pantheon of thoughts about divinity) and breaks into equally koan-curling songs as composer Greg Morrison performs on keyboard. Darren O'Donnell's design is supremely simple, with much of the show's fine style provided by Cimmeron Eve Meyer's incredibly tight lighting.

It's foolish to try and convey the magic of Citizen Pochsy with just one example, but her trip to the bank does bring this delicious exchange, bathed by what else but blood-red light, in a song: "Can you tell me if you bank by phone?" "Can you tell me, will I die alone?"