Thursday, 10 May 2018

Estrogenesis - Next Wave Festival review

Transgender bodies, identity and environment serve as the focus of Embittered Swish's new work with their Next Wave Festival show, Estrogenesis. Taking on a technology themed approach to gender, the performance art piece explores what happens when you alter the 'hardware' of gender and what the ramifications of such an act are.

Performed by Mossy 333, Romy Fox, Bobuq Sayed and Mick Klepner Roe, we witness several scenes that delve into what it is to be trans through a variety of art mediums including spoken word, music and dance. There are some interesting issues and themes raised, including Sayed’s spoken word on the trans body and the differences that exist within the trans community.

M’ck McKeague and Jacinta Antcliff's set design utilises the entire space in the theatre but retains a sparseness that allows for a level of vulnerability to emerge from the performers. The three walls are completely dressed in a light white fabric, giving a feeling of being closed in or cocooned. The front of the stage is scattered with various computer hardware parts, further linking technology, gender and identity.

The large arch window in the centre of the back wall further plays with the perception of being held captive, particularly with the sense of freedom that Andre Vanderwert's AV projections of oceans and calm waters seen through the window create. This concept of fluidity is well used with the projections in the final moments hinting that our 'hardware' can in fact be modified. There's also some great visuals present with Vanderwert's slick lighting design that supports Estrogenesis.

While the design elements are well thought out, there’s a repetitiveness running through the show that Embittered Swish can’t shake off. There are plenty of scenes and vignettes being performed but the purpose is often too vague to deduce anything meaningful from it. There is no strong culmination of these ideas coming together, leaving Estrogenesis to hit a plateau halfway through.

Embittered Swish has successfully brought questions of trans identity to the fore with previous work, but with no bold assertions or statements made, it feels like there’s a few pieces still missing with this one. In this way, Estrogenesis makes it difficult for the audience to connect with and to fully appreciate - and understand - what it means to be trans in our society. 

Venue: Brunswick Mechanics Institute, 270 Sydney Rd, Brunswick.
Season: until 13 May | 7:30pm
Length: 60 mins
Tickets: $28Full | $23Conc
Bookings: Next Wave 

Photo Credit: Sarah Walker

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