A jauntily edited and technologically stunted video appears on a large screen at Assembly Hall, a trailer for Rose McGowan’s book, with garish orange writing and photos in a slideshow format. This disorganised and off-kilter beginning, part sales-pitch, part self-indulgent exercise, sets the tone for the rest of the performance.
As Rose McGowan walks through the theatre, barefoot and dressed in a white robe to address the audience, it is clear that this experience is sincere and holds great personal significance. She explains that this is not theatre but an artistic experience, once she has worked on for four years. Unfortunately, her passion does not translate to anything resembling entertainment or enlightenment.
The following hour is self-promotion of her book and album, nasal and out of tune singing and some rather uncomfortable guided meditation, peppered with some genuinely interesting and charming speeches.
Planet 9 refers to a concept created by McGowan when she was 10; a world where everyone is safe and everything you love is there. Sadly, she doesn’t appear to have developed the idea since then, making it personally profound but universally confusing. There is a consistent galactic, interstellar theme to the music and visuals, but instead of being a strong concept it comes across as repetitive and ponderous.
The best moments are those where she speaks candidly and openly to the audience, discussing Me Too, her upbringing in a cult and the lives of survivors. In these speeches she is beguiling, heartfelt and genuinely interesting, brimming with self-aware humour and empowerment.
Whatever power is summoned in these moments, however, is lost in the abstract, unsteady themes of the show. The discussions, with McGowan sitting on the floor to speak to the audience, create fleeting moments of genuine connection that are utterly lost during the music and meditation, summoning a feeling that if this show had been entirely a candid talk, then it would have been far more successful.
Instead, McGowan blends a queasy mix of spoken word, singing and conversation that is tone deaf in every sense of the word. Her singing is confident but out of tune and her stage presence is odd, swaying with arms outstretched and walking slowly around making intense eye contact with the audience. Some of the songs are interesting, Origami especially having a punky energy, but the shaky, nasal vocals leave a lot to be desired.
The large screen on which she presents visuals seems disjointed, jarring with her performance and even distracting McGowan herself. The scenes vary from a car driving through a tunnel to a person dancing in a shiny parka and sometimes McGowan stops to watch the screen, leaving the audience in a lurch.
Similarly, McGowan says she has no timer on stage and no way of knowing when the songs will begin playing, leading to her suddenly cutting off mid sentence to sing, or standing on stage looking into the distance and wondering aloud when the song will start. This thoroughly disorganised production damages any fluidity and cohesion the show might have had. The choppy performances and disorganisation make it difficult to ever truly relax into the show.
Planet 9 is a bold but misguided experience that obviously holds great meaning to McGowan, but fails to be at all effective in entertaining or empowering the audience.