Tracy Crisp needs the galvanising power of a deadline, and with only one hour before she is due at her sewing group’s annual Stitch & Bitch challenge, this show opens with her seated behind her trusty Husqvarna sewing machine, foot hard on the pedal.

This year, the theme of the sewing challenge is “Manifesto”. Despite Crisp’s struggles with how on earth to demonstrate an “articulation of your individual truth” in a sewing project, after being the runner-up three years in a row, she’s determined to win.

As a professional celebrant, Crisp has often thought about the strangeness of how we put so much thought into what we wear every day of our lives, only to leave the choice of garment in which we’ll spend the afterlife to someone else. So now, riding the adrenaline wave of deadline panic, she’s running up the seams of the muslin tea-dress she intends to wear to her own funeral.

This is Tracy Crisp’s sixth and final show of her celebrated series of monologues exploring family, memory, grief, identity and middle age. While each of these pieces can be revelled in as a stand-alone show of exemplary quality, there’s a deep satisfaction in experiencing the series as a body of work – like an extraordinary hand-made garment delivered with every seam bound and pressed, every thread knotted and neatly snipped.

Stitches is sheer delight, with everything we’ve come to expect from this consummate writer and performer working at full power.  Crisp opens her piece with a series of childhood recollections about following her mother through every fabric shop in town – and with a few perfectly chosen sensory details, every audience member of a certain age is instantly deep in their own memories of crafty mothers and grandmothers. Crisp evokes the sound of dressmaking scissors on the kitchen table, the thick, glossy texture of the pages of pattern books, the forests of colourful bolts of cloth in fabric shops, and she has us in the palm of her hand.

With her sharp cultural and political insight, hilarious yet generous commentary on women and ageing, and her trademark poignancy when delving into family memories, Crisp’s storytelling skills are simply exceptional. And with a bichon frisé named Gough Whitlam in the mix, what’s not to love?

Tracy Crisp: Stitches is at Studio 166 at Goodwood Theatre and Studios until March 1. Crisp is also restaging her show Pearls during this Fringe season, and presenting a visual art exhibition titled Pearls (Unstitched).

Read more 2024 Adelaide Fringe coverage here on InReview.

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