Julia Croft’s Power Ballad isn’t about heartbreak or heroes. But it is concerned with something momentous in the air: language. It’s a bold attempt to redress the male access to amplification, to remould vernacular into a linguistic form unviolated by gendered power structures. It’s also frequently funny and filled with an antic spirit.
Bare-chested Croft slides on her back, wearing jeans and a long shaggy wig with a fringe that covers her face. The aesthetic promise of rock rebellion is rendered mute.
Music plays, but the focus is on flesh – Croft uses slithering contortions and hip thrusts to direct a microphone over her sternum and down her back so it appears pendulously between her legs, a limp yet triumphant totem. Later the microphone is a conduit for searching non-verbal sounds, a mixture of thuds and exhalations that culminate in a flinch-inducing gag.
A distortion box lowers Croft’s voice to a boom so that, in a blazer and wig-cap, she becomes a roaring troll lecturing on the difference between facts and feelings. Iterations of ‘feminist’ register a broiling symphony of cynicism and disgust, while the drawled syllables of ‘theatre’ provoke the perky mention of ‘Mel Gibson’. It’s a disruptive, dauntless work.