Friday 3 June 2016

Mira Fuchs review

Melanie Jame Wolf was a stripper in a gentlemen's club for eight years. Mira Fuchs was the name of her persona while working there, and is also the name of this work, the first in a trilogy of pieces where Wolf examines how the manifestation of being a ‘woman’ changes according to different systems or economies of affect. Performed to an intimate audience in the round, Wolf shares her experiences while exploring issues related to women and stripping, such as gender, sexuality, desire and the stigma that comes attached to this line of work.

At times it is unclear who is performing; Wolf or Fuchs? Perhaps after being together for eight years, the answer is not so clear cut. At one point, she dons a white lab coat and a pair of glasses and in the blink of an eye, she is now a scientist who shares her findings on the ecology of a strip club. Through some well-constructed diagrams, Wolf explores the science of what type of male pack she approaches and when, to maximise her financial gain. While humourous, it's a reminder that while she is in a seemingly authoritative position, the power still rests with the pack.

Further to what role Wolf plays in this, there is an intentional sense of ambiguity on what role the audience has in Mira Fuchs. Are we a mere observer or a participant? Are we watching this show or are we part of it? How much of what we do makes and changes this show? We may be receiving an intimatelap dance but we have about 30 pairs of eyes watching us. Where are we looking? Where are our hands? Are we smiling? Are we enjoying it?

There is an eroticism to the lap dances Wolf offers to the willing participants, but you can't help notice a somewhat emptiness to her, that Wolf is not entirely present in the moment, or perhaps not wanting to be, as she goes through the motions of repeatedly straddling strangers' laps and touching herself. At other times, she is smiling and interacting with her client. It is captivating watching these various moments unfold with the boundaries of performance and performer intersecting. The only downside is that the video projections and audio recordings that Wolf plays during these times, which are just as interesting and insightful, can be difficult to focus on due to the physical performance occurring.

Mira Fuchs is presented as an essay and divided up by topics, such as "on drugs", "on desire" and "on sex". However, "on shame" is the most confronting and effective topic in allowing women to take control of their body and who they are. Ironically, it is the topic that the least time is spent on but the way it is presented speaks volumes.

Mira Fuchs is a strong feminist work by Wolf on how women's bodies are seen and used within the context of stripping. As mentioned earlier, this is the first piece in a trilogy and I’m very intrigued to see what Wolf develops for the next two pieces. If it's anything like Mira Fuchs, we will not be disappointed.

Arts House, 521 Queensberry St, North Melbourne, 3051
Season: Until 12 June | Thurs – Sat 8.30pm, Sat 5.30pm, Sun 5.30pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $30 Conc
Bookings: Arts House

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