By David Walters
The 2024 International Fringe Encore Series has brought to New York some of the best offerings of fringe festivals from around the world, and Split Lip is one of them.
The downstairs space at SoHo Playhouse (15 Vandam St.) is small and intimate. That setting intensifies Ginava‘s (Blake Anderson) performance. It’s like standing on tip-toe looking through the little wire-enforced glass window in the metal door, and hesitantly peering into the padded cell of a psych ward. Fascinating and creepy all at the same time.
The clown-like makeup that creator, director, and performer Blake Anderson/Ginava dons while performing this piece, a patient in a mental hospital diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), only adds to the unbalance (I can’t help but be reminded of Joaquin Phoenix’s unstable performance of The Joker. This is just as scary if not more so.). Using the technique of lip-syncing, Ginava is jerked in and out of different personalities, as if someone is flicking the light switch on and off, on and off, off and on, continually for the whole hour.
Someone with DID has multiple, distinct personalities that get triggered by life’s travails. Different identities take complete control of the person’s behavior. Usually caused by past trauma of some kind, the condition can cause memory loss, delusions, and of course deep depression. This show is an examination of that condition from the inside of a patient who has self-committed to a mental hospital and will not be released until some progress is made (“If you don’t want to talk, I can’t help you.”).
Taking audio bits from over 40 film and television DID references that have been spliced together for a storyline, Ginava meticulously lip-syncs the words, going in and out of the many personalities. What this technique gives to the performance is an out-of-body (or it could be deep from the gates of hell inner-body) feeling to what the audience is watching. It is very effective and quite unsettling.
Ginava is the stage name of Blake Anderson who has made a name for herself in the Australian drag scene with outlandish costumes and staging. She has gone beyond that with this show and is now swimming in the world of theatrical drams. Olympic swimming. Her acting skills and investment in the characters that inhabit her are real, alive, and visceral in that it leaves the audience both on the edge of their seats and hesitant about what is going to come forth next.
Split Lip is written, directed, and performed by Blake Anderson/Ginava.
Content Warning: Frequent coarse language, sexual references, sexual assault, drug references, mental health, loud noises, flashing lights.
If this review piqued your interest, you might also be piqued by one of the following that also played at Soho Playhouse: Bacon, South, for all the women who thought they were Mad, It’s a Motherf**king Pleasure, and Passage.