Sep. 4th, 2016

sebastienne: My default icon: I'm a fat white person with short dark hair, looking over my glasses. (Default)
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This was a dubious "showcase" piece from a dubious school called "acting coach scotland". Mostly, it was forgettable group scenes with the vaguely linking theme of "women's suffrage", but one performer shone in a monologue about a trip to a "mother and toddler group" which touched on the co-option of working class women by activists. (Although, I wonder what actual working class feminists would make of the patronising "Forrest Gump" elements..)

Assassins

Sondheim I'd never seen before! There's only a finite number of times in one's life that one gets to see new Sondheim, and I'm glad that I spent one of those times with this company. This show is structured around everyone who ever assassinated a US president, with a few failed assassinations thrown in for good measure. An incredibly powerful and focused ensemble, I was particularly impressed by the fantasist Giteau and the witheringly intense Wilkes Booth. Whether it was the performances or the script, I don't know, but I was left with the nagging feeling that this show doesn't quite find women's inner lives as interesting or compelling as men's inner lives - but then again, so much of the show's theme of American-Dream-freedom-and-power-through-assassination is about masculinities, perhaps that's understandable.

Adventures in Menstruating

I don't know when "sex education cabaret" became it's own genre (maybe we get to take a little of the credit for that?) but I'm so glad it did. I'm also impressed by the effortlessness with which Chella Quint took us through an hour of menstruation-related material without once using "women" as shorthand for "people who menstruate". This was gentle, kind, and charming, and also we got to play Twister.

Company

Oh, poor Lincoln Company. They'd obviously choreographed their production for one of C's many small, minimalist, black-box theatres... the drafty church hall they ended up in was terrible for them, acoustically, dramatically, and just terrible for my back (I'd appreciate some warning if I'm going to be sitting on a rickety pew for 90 minutes!).

So while I appreciated their queered version of Company - a Sondheim musical I've never quite "got" before, always finding it borderline-misogynist - I worry that much of the audience didn't. Certainly, towards the end of the month, a lot of the cast looked exhausted - or at least were struggling to fill the cavernous space they'd been forced to perform in. It's hard for me to comment on the show musically, because the acoustics were so muddy that even if the performers had been excellent, I'm not sure I'd have noticed.

Things that WORKED:

  • Bobby becoming Bobbi changes the tone of the endless question, "why aren't you married yet?".

  • They recast one of Bobbi's partners as a man, for some gloriously effortless bi representation.

  • Half of Bobbi's friends being queer totally normalised queerness and left no space for tedious "what if Bobby is Secretly Gay And Therefore Incapable of Loving Connections" interpretations

  • I actually cried in "Being Alive" - normally I'm left a little cold, even Neil Patrick Harris couldn't quite make me feel it, but from Bobbi, I actually felt like I understood it.


I can't help but feel that, if this and Assassins had swapped venues, both would have done much better.
sebastienne: My default icon: I'm a fat white person with short dark hair, looking over my glasses. (Default)
Techies the Musical

Charming silly show, that utterly split the room into "thesps" and "non-thesps" - as the show started with a chaotic whole-cast scene of trying to get the stage cleared (but the actors are warming up! but this prop just needs moving/fixing! etc!) half the room was waiting patiently for the show to start, and half the room (the half, I assume, who'd ever been involved in a theatrical get-in) were falling off their seats at the accuracy of the actors' warm-up games, at the casual rudeness in all directions, at the exasperation and the incoherence of the whole thing.

Plot was nothing to write home about - power-hungry director wants to make the Most Techincally Advanced Show Ever and doesn't care what health-and-safety rules she breaks to get there.

"You want to set the entire musical UNDERWATER??"
"Yes."
"But how are the cast going to SING???"
"Uhh, microphones?"

But for a fiver a piece - on the cheap side for paid shows, bloody hell this was not a cheap holiday - I'm very glad I snapped up some last-night tickets before they sold out.


Axis of Awesome

I'd pretty much just seen "4 chords" and "Elephant in the Room", and decided to book on the strength of those. If you've not seen Elephant in the Room, I'll give you a moment:



(If you can't / don't want to click that link, I'm afraid I couldn't find a transcript anywhere, but to summarise: one member of the band transitioned, and they've deflected all the shitty questions and assumptions into a song about how one of the other band members is now bald. "Lee, now that you're bald, do you like men now?" "No, because congenital alopecia has nothing to do with sexual orientation!" "Lee, now that you're bald, are you going to cut your dick off?" "None of your fucking business!" It is a work of fuck-you brilliance.)

So the thing that I take away from this is that it is possible to fill the Gilded Balloon Ballroom, every night, and pepper a silly comedy music show with nuanced comments about transmisogyny, about fucking-up and learning-from-it, without even slightly alienating a core audience of geekbros. Shame about the racism.


Gender Spanner

This is why I've been putting off finishing my review posts. I still don't know what to say about this. I can't tell if I hated it because it was on at midnight and I wanted to be in bed - or if I hated it because I was jealous, because I wanted to have created it - or if I hated it because it was deeply transmisogynistic - or if I hated it because there's only one body type that can do genderfuck striptease and it sure as shit isn't my body type. Probably, a little bit of all of those things.

I wanted to have made this - it was, fundamentally, a series of burlesque skits on the broad them of "feminism and gender identity", much of it very trad burlesque with a slightly radical-political twist. In so many ways it was everything that I had in mind in 2008 when I pounced on Annalytica: "hey, I've got a NYE gig for my filthy feminist songs, want to help me out?". This was alternate-universe Lashings of Ginger Beer Time, and it hit me right in my sadness that those dreams were derailed.

It was horribly transmisogynistic - appropriating transfeminine experiences only when it wanted to talk about how hard it is to be trans, and doing it in a way that was simultaneously deeply stereotyping and hugely evocative of violence in an almost gratuitously triggering way. Sexualising and gloryfying transmasculinity (talking lustfully about "silicone dicks") while desxualising and delegitimising transfeminity (talking patronisingly about "plasticine tits"). Lashings may have had our fair share of fuckups (particularly around racism) but surely we never did anything this hateful.

I could never do this - and so, we come to the climax of the piece, the genderfuck striptease. I'm.. so angry at it, even as I really enjoyed it. To see someone flicking back and forth between high-femme tassle-twirling body language, and super-macho pec-twitching body-language, was brilliant and liberating. The fact that I could never do either with my 36JJs feels like a side issue, but how could it not be central in my response? The ability to tell non-binary stories got tied right into the ability to use a naked body to perform "masculinity" and "femininity" in equal "convincingness" - for all the simplistic "sex-is-body, gender-is-mind" narrative that the show put forward, it all seemed to come back to the ambiguous body in the end.

And that just leaves me wanting to scream into the void, "fuck you fuck you fuck you".

Well what do you know? I think I finally found my dysphoria. Thanks, Gender Spanner, for causing me sufficient distress that I feel almost entitled to my transness.

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