CHICAGO: When your parents are working-class Australians and you’re a performance artist, how do you bridge the cultural divide? Why, by putting them in your act, of course.
Bron Batten’s Sweet Child of Mine, which premiered in the 2011 Melbourne Fringe Festival, not only incorporates stories of her relationship with her parents, but actually brings Jim and Linda Batten onstage. As Bron sends up classic tortured-performance-artist tropes (e.g., wallowing in blue paint), Jim tells “Dad jokes.” The show also includes a father/daughter duet of Frank and Nancy Sinatra’s “Somethin’ Stupid,” and video segments in which Bron’s parents reveal their benign puzzlement at her career.
Batten brings the show to Chicago’s Neo-Futurists this month for its U.S. premiere (pending completion of the visa approval process, still ongoing at press time). It’s a good fit—the Neos have, over 25 years, built a reputation for “non-illusory, interactive performance.”
Batten says she created Sweet Child out of frustration with “the obtuseness of theatre in Melbourne. I was seeing a lot of shows that required a degree in contemporary art just to understand what was going on.” She realized, on the home front, she had excluded her parents from her creative life.
Neo-Futurists co-artistic director Bilal Dardai notes that bringing in an international artist is a new step (almost all the company’s work is devised by its own ensemble). The Neos are interested in supporting “artists who are like us, who are smaller in scope and DIY.” Small in scope it may be, but Batten says her show “touches on a very human need for approval that most people crave and desire from their parents.”