by Rimantė Ella Bivainytė
On 8th of March, International Women’s Day, the Sherman Theatre hosted the powerful play Cannonballista by Liz Clarke. Cannonballista is a one-woman show about grief, coping with sorrow and an explosive alter ego called Betty Bruiser. Just before the show, the audience encounters an interesting setup: a little wooden shed in the corner and three piles of dirt. The main actor greeting people while pouring more and more dirt into the piles. Finally, lights are off and Liz begins with a monologue.
Liz speaks about a mysterious person called Betty Bruiser who is, according to her, “her black dog, her glittery bruise”. Betty appears in her life after her sister Faye died, hence due to the grief, Betty overtook her life.
After the monologue Liz transits herself to incarnate Betty; Bonnie Tyler’s song I Need a Hero starts playing as Betty dances all over the stage. ‘Rise like a Phoenix’, Betty says. She is everywhere. She jumps around the stage with her glittery avant-garde costumes, entertains the audience asking for volunteers to help her make this even more fun. Betty Bruiser is pictured as an explosive, chaotic, self-destructive and ‘superstar’ personality with a desperate need for attention. Betty even calls herself as the world’s only ‘One Woman Husband and Wife Team’.
Throughout the show Liz and Betty often collide in conflict: Liz wants to get rid of Betty while she wants to be a superstar and ‘shoot to the sky’. However, in the end, Betty is finally able to cope with her grief finding her new self, while Liz starts appreciating and understanding her dramatic character.
According to the writer and performer of this play Liz Clarke, Betty is a metaphor for anyone who has an inner ‘alter-ego’ personality full of hidden strengths that lie deep inside of us. She says that Betty is part of her and an influence of many women with whom she was working with for over fifteen years through the drama therapy. The audience who had an opportunity to have a post-show conversation with the artist and directors agreed that Betty Bruiser is a very relatable character.
Dirt was the grief that fills us and consumes, glitter was an explosive something that comes out of the failure of coping. Glitter is the coping mechanism that provokes the ‘superhero alter-ego’. Liz and Betty’s story is a great example, nevertheless dramatic and realistic, of the painful coping with sorrow and grief that everyone, at least once in a lifetime, experiences.