For several years, we've been treated to a mini-quake of interesting Feminist-with-a-capital-F theatre works that break the fourth wall, refuse traditional plotting and experiment with sound, light and smearing food through one's hair.
Auteur/performer Julia Croft (If there's not Dancing…, Power Ballad, Plastic Orgasm) is a driving force, while auteur/director Eleanor Bishop (Jane Doe) is also a leading light. After their hard-hitting Boys last year, they've created the two-hander Body Double with performer Karin McCracken who also starred in Jane Doe. In short, this is an assured team with game, form and a strong vision.
At their best, such Feminist works impressively offer both novel and memorable theatre experiences and worthwhile conversations. This time, Body Double is a sensory trip, although its theoretical imagination doesn't quite match its theatrical excitement.
In a fun, heady whirlwind introduction ("this is a show that we made about desire and sex"), we're told to expect references to Chris Kraus' book I Love Dick, social theorist Roland Barthes, Titanic and the theory that women are turned on by being desired.
The performers keep up the meta-commentary for 80 minutes of sensory delights: gauze, glass, plastic, sheepskin and fun fur in Lucy Pope's clever design; Blondie, Prince and reverb in Te Aihe Butler's wonderfully transporting sound. The show itself stands in for sex: we see a clean-up and, when Croft wants McCracken to keep up strenuous activity, she says she loves her — the ultimate manipulation.
Body Double makes excellent use of rich spoken word, humorous storytelling and fantastic live screens: fantasy and reality come together in an Anna Karenina re-enactment, which beautifully projects the actors as 1920s stars and shows the prosaic camera mechanisms. (Even when the technology fails, Croft and McCracken are compelling without it.)
But the piece has limitations. While it critiques some sexual cliches, it entrenches others and doesn't overtly offer alternative useful myths. Disappointingly, for all the self-commentary, the performers do not acknowledge the show's tight scope (white, middle-class, single and surprisingly heteronormative), exasperatingly shutting out other understandings. But a grand wild ride.
What: Silo Theatre & Auckland Arts Festival - Body Double
Where & when: Loft, Q Theatre; until Thursday, March 29
Reviewer: Janet McAllister