... echoes Beckett’s musicality. Thomas tends to the base, cloying, funny, fragile disturbances that make theatre an imperative act. She gives breadth to her characters’ thoughts in tension to the daily performances they play in the role of mother, grandmother, friend, wife, lover, daughter ... She opens up the care it takes for these characters to not leap into easy connection, to allow space for their own and a stranger’s difference. She teases out how ideals and identities fall short of life’s ambiguity. She gently holds the inescapable paradoxes of wanting, needing and enduring in these strange-becoming-stranger times ... a poetics of the political, without preaching or judgement: it triggers burning questions. This is achieved through the novel’s clever structure ... Written with passion, The Performance is a brave book: unafraid of confronting the dissonances of living in a modern Australia.
Australian writer Claire Thomas has just published The Performance, a curious novel about three women watching Happy Days. It begins moments before the lights go down in the theater. Some 228 pages later, members of the audience file out to the parking lot. The end. Thank you for coming. As a plot, that sounds like Beckett squared. The fact that The Performance works at all is noteworthy; that it’s engaging and evocative is something of a miracle ... Although, in one sense, nothing 'happens' in this novel, there’s something uniquely revealing about it ... It feels oddly intimate ... The structure of The Performance forces Thomas to create movement even while her characters are sitting stock still, but she rises to the challenge ... The Performance is an insightful response to Beckett’s 60-year-old classic and a thoughtful reflection on what’s burying women in the modern age.
... both appropriately existential for this cultural moment and far enough behind it to evoke nostalgic recognition ... a clever conceit that lends structure to an otherwise roving, interior narrative ... Sometimes the novel’s digressions drift far from their original association, which might stretch the patience of a reader looking for traditional plot ... Thomas is a fluid writer who stitches these topics together, but the effect is still meandering and stream-of-consciousness ... I found myself wishing for the novel to do more with this raw material, to synthesize these awful facts instead of merely stating them ... But perhaps my desire to make sense of our time — and the novel’s inability to offer sensemaking — is the point. We are all frightened and exhausted. Like Winnie, we are uneasily confined on earth, performing our “attempt at endurance.” In this novel, the project of living is rendered with compassionate clarity. For the duration of The Performance, we can acknowledge the extent of our overwhelming burden, without looking away.