Everything I See I Swallow raises challenging questions about how we bring up girls. The women behind a new shibari show speak out

A young woman is strung up above the stage, a delicate lattice of red ropes criss-crossing the bare skin on her thighs and ribs, leaving an exposed patchwork of flesh. Its the startling opening of Everything I See I Swallow, a show that won a Fringe First at the Edinburgh festival this summer, a two-hander devised by actors and aerialists Maisy Taylor (the suspended woman) and Tamsin Shasha with director Helen Tennison.

What Taylor is demonstrating is the art of shibari, the centuries-old practice of Japanese rope bondage, which began as an elaborate way for samurai to restrain their captives and has evolved into an erotic art. Your first thoughts might be: this seems like a niche interest. But its the spark for a piece of theatre that speaks to something universal and pressing, about the rights of women over their own bodies, the ramifications of digital life, and that knotty old question: can it ever be empowering for a woman to take her clothes off in public?

Shasha plays Miranda, a woman appalled to discover her artist daughter Olivia (Taylor) has been posting semi-naked pictures of herself online. Their ensuing standoff is a primer on contemporary feminism and navigating sexuality in the internet age. That the pair have done their homework is evident (thinkers from Andrea Dworkin to Beyonc are namechecked) and the occasionally heavy-handed script can be self-consciously learned, but the fact is its fascinating territory, constantly evolving and full of complexity.

The pair act out an unusually frank but believable mother-daughter bond, the calm self-possession of Taylor, 25, versus the fraught energy of Shasha, 53. The aerialism is contemplative and illustrative, the umbilical attachment of mother and daughter stretching as the girl grows up, or Miranda tying herself in literal as well as figurative knots with the argument at hand. Different modes of text layer up: conventional scenes, direct address to the audience, quotes from feminist theory and naturalistic voiceovers.

Everything
Contemplative and illustrative aerialism … Everything I See I Swallow. Photograph: Claire Clifton Coles

Taylors monologues are some of the most authentic-feeling sections and her character is semi-autobiographical. Its something Ive been exploring in my life anyway, she says of the shows subject matter when we speak after a sold-out performance at Londons Jacksons Lane arts centre. I spent three years at circus school and when I left I started working as a cabaret performer in a strip club. I was performing rope shows, mostly naked, and I was trying to explore why people have such strong views on women in sex work and women posting nude photos online. And whether that behaviour can be empowered or whether its always part of the problem.

Some of the things Taylor speaks about in Swallow raise important questions about how we bring up girls. As a child she was always told how pretty she was, to the point where she began to resent the assessment of a quality that seemed nothing to do with who she was. It drove her to dissociate from her body, she tells us, and the unexpected way she reconnected was through shibari, finding complete peace in deliberately giving up control.

Its a fascinating personal history, but incorporated into the shows narrative it raises plenty of questions: Who holds the power when you put an image into the public realm? How do you manage the gap between intention and reception? After all, one persons art may be anothers porn; you may feel empowered but you can still be objectified.

Everything
In knots … Tamsin Shasha in Everything I See I Swallow. Photograph: Ambar Dandrea Photography

Olivias fourth-wave feminism jars with her mothers outlook, with Miranda struggling to protect her daughter and her generations hard-won gains in equality. Shasha feels similarly. But we do need to talk about these things, she says. I want to have that conversation. Ive become very woke making the show.

I ask Taylor about her own mums reaction to what she does. My mums great, shes very supportive, she says. Taylors parents were part of the new age traveller movement and very open-minded. My family trust that I have really good reasons for doing what Im doing, she says. Theres a condescension towards women who are outwardly sexual, she thinks. Its, They cant possibly know what theyre doing, they need to be helped. And no one who knows me would ever think that.

For Taylor, all her work, whether shibari or circus or strip-club shows, is a form of research, and Swallow is a vehicle for discussion, not a conclusion. The fact that we dont know where we sit is part of it, she says. I know theres something wrong with the sexualised imagery we see of women every day, but I dont think the answer is to totally strip sex out of life it wont work. We need to normalise sexual desire and expression rather than having it as this secret everyone carries around with them and is terrified of because its somehow anti-feminist.

Challenging, provocative and funny, too, Swallow is a brave dissection of the intergenerational divide where the personal is undeniably political.

Everything I See I Swallow is at Arena theatre, Wolverhampton, 9 October; Cornerstone Arts Centre, Didcot, 10 October; and Lakeside theatre, Colchester, 6-7 November.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

 

Recommended For You



Like it? Share with your friends!

0 Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.