The prize for the most fun show so far at Impulstanz 2005 has to go to Melissa is a bitch from Ann Liv Young. Succinct as well as only about forty-five minutes.
Melissa is a bitch - girls on swings
An absolutely bare stage - black brick wall at the back. A floorstanding loudspeaker on the left of the stage with a mixer and an ibook perched on top.
Six women and a man come striding out. Those who are dressed are in green. A lot of bare flesh. Women eating green ice cream.
A very curvaceous blonde with a munificent chest crammed into a tiny green bikini walks to the back wall of the stage. She stares and waits.
Loud and blaring music, Lionel Ritchie's hit from the eighties "Running with the night"
You were looking so good girl, heads were turning
You and me on the town ooh, we let it all hang out
The fire was in us, we were burning
We were gonna go all the way and we never had a doubt
Energetic go-go dancing all the way through the song. You had to believe the bikini was made of sailcloth to hold up all the way through the song. She's done.
Two other girls go to the middle of the stage and eat green ice cream. On command they dump their ice cream on the ground. On another command they take their clothes off. On command again, they mount upside down on two swings. Result two naked girls upside down on swings with two green ice cream cones cone down melting into the floor.
Their names are Liv and Renée and they are in love and sing together about a life of strapons and yeast infections. More lyrics:
I wish I were dead,
I want to fuck everybody I see.
If the world were fair P. Diddy wouldn't get
the prettiest woman in the world, J-Lo.
I had never thought about Jennifer Lopez in such pragmatic terms, or more particularly, her relationship with Puff Daddy, but it is amusing.
Another girl in green plastic occupies the stage in turn and talks about turtles.
Melissa is a bitch - monologue
Two more girls in little green strings with green t-shirts follow an elaborate set of commands issued by Ann Live Young and arrive in the middle of the stage where they reveal fresh white tampons in their right hand. They pull open the strings and drop the tampons in, they grind the tampons into their crotches with their left hand, pulling the string up through the labia. They pull the tampons out and plop the tampons into their mouths, where just the white string is left hanging out between their teeth.
Finally another woman in a short-dress pulls her skirt up to reveal her bald eagle - she pulls two live turtles out of an acquarium and uses them as masturbating implements on both front and back orifices while singing about her love for tortoises.
Smut? No. This is what happened. All surprisingly unsexual despite the nudity and explicit acts. Something like pornography leaves many indifferent (there is no sensual or emotional context to give meaning or eros to the body manipulation), so does Ann Liv Young's bawdiness just passes eroticism by and becomes a series of provoking tableaux.
It's an interesting sensation. It is taboo-breaking.
Pornographic da-da. Always wondered what it would be like to see something amusing that made no particular sense.
What Ann Liv Young is trying to do in terms of liberation of women is not entirely clear to me. It must fall into the same category as The Vagina Monologues which were a runaway hit in cities across North America with many different casts. I couldn't see why one would want to see three woman, each talk about her vagina onstage for half an hour. (Here is an explanation from author Eve Ensler which helps somewhat including a darkly amusing take on the Snow White fairytale.) No more than I would care for the same kind of performance from men talking about their penises (I have read but found dull Portnoy's Complaint).
In the middle of all this music and action, there is a long speech in the middle of the play (which is more what it is than a dance piece), talking about pigs and people, bunnies hopping through the forest and being popped in the head of some symbolic significance.
Unlike a static piece like The Vagina Monologues, Melissa is a bitch takes place at a very high energy level with lots of action and visual invention. The whole cast seems very well-rehearsed. There is a certain precision to Ann Liv Young's work which helps it to rise above a certain look at me aspect that these shock shows often have. Her work is not long winded either - Melissa is a bitch ends abruptly at about forty-five minutes. A worse director might easily drag the material out to double its length - a lot of the shows strength is in its brevity.
I am not sure this kind of work is as important in many European countries as female body-image issues are not as much of an issue as in North America. I.e. the women like their bodies and their men do too. But it is entertaining to look through Ann Liv Young's fun-house looking glass at a world filled with plump women in too tight bikinis, Jennifer Lopez and P. Diddy.
The woman sitting beside me said it was like being transported back to the 1970's, the look and the feel and the issues with sexuality. "But I am curious what she will say when we get home," she added, indicating her eighteen year old and shell shocked daughter.
Ann Liv Young has a DVD with four or five of her productions on it, all of which involve nudity and absurdity. One includes two girls performing dance routines and singing with their heads and in and out of two toilets in the middle of the stage. If you get the chance (schedule of performances here), you owe it to yourself to see at least one of her shows. It is fun. Ann Live Young's strong control of the theatre environment makes me very curious to see where her work goes ten years from now.