Who gave Heather Bandenburg permission to snatch my wig this hard? I Need To Cher are a phenomenal company specialising in the life of a goddess. I had no idea that I needed their production of How to Survive the Cherpocalypse – I am certain it has cured my seasonal depression. Who would have thought I was in need of a brief delve into the healing powers of Cher herself?
The Space is churchy and looms over us. Electric candles flicker; Cher blares through the theatre and a cardboard cut-out of the titular character is centre stage, propped against a wooden chair. What we learn very quickly is that this is intentionally, ironically apocalyptic. I hear an audience member cry out, “Is this modern art?”
A yellow marigold creeps around a door before Bandenburg bursts into space. She’s in a bright hazmat suit. Huge pink balloons shape her body as she proceeds to perform the most chaotic strip tease I have ever witnessed. A terrifying figure below a black drape is suddenly revealed to be a mannequin dressed as Cher.
Bandenburg stands before us in a leotard draped in a huge black wig. Her Cher make-up is immaculate with its red lip and smooth eyebrow. She febreezes her crotch. She looks incredible. Beneath this show of carefully crafted nonsense is a skilled performer with intoxicating charm and finesse. Bandenburg’s humour is deliciously dry and she doesn’t miss a beat.
This one-woman performance sweeps you off your feet with the most ingenuity ever to inspire a PowerPoint presentation. Embedded in what could be conceived as nothing but hysterical inane nonsense is a feminist narrative of self-worth and individuality. We are told to, “Become our own rich man,” and taught to seek out the light in a post-lockdown world.
Lessons from Cher are utilised to comedically heal you. A slide reads, “If you fear looking foolish, you will never have the opportunity to be that great.” We reflect on the past seven months. The first 28 seconds of ‘Believe’ play over BBC footage of shoppers in lockdown stood behind endless trolleys outside supermarkets. Cher informs us, “I’ve been self-isolating since the mid 1990s.”
The anticlimactic humour is marked with positivity as we tumble through a timeline of Cher’s life. She cradles a deflated male blow-up doll, representing Sonny Bono, who incoherently flops about as she lip-sings her heart out.
I didn’t expect such an optimistic outlook and it is truly revitalising. How on earth can a self-aware tribute act offer so much light in a scope of darkness for no apparent reason? The show ends as Bandenburg destroys the set, rips off her costume, dances, flashes the audience. If you’re looking for a shot of hope at a seemingly dreadful time, I urge you to dive into such artwork.
How to Survive the Cherpocalypse was playing at the Space until the 24 October 2020. For more information see The Space website.