Testosterone Overload [by James Wenley]
The roof of the Aotea Centre has to be one of the coolest places in Auckland to do a show. Overlooked by the large old Council building, imbued with the colour of street lights, and soundtracked with street noise, sirens and the odd sound of a seagull, it has the type of atmosphere that you just can’t replicate.
Dance like a Butterfly Dream Boy is a pretty cool show to be performed up there too. Don’t let the reference to the butterfly fool you – this isn’t some tender beautiful thing – but a full on, testosterone filled, macho show where a cast of mad men push their bodies to the extremes and battle to be the alpha male.
Testosterone heavy? Yes. Indulgent? Yes. Sick? Sometimes. Fun? Absolutey!
Unfortunately I arrive shortly after it began, trying to fit in Be | Longing too. The audience have arranged themselves in rows over the width of the roof, some have opted to stand at the back. I quickly take my seat on the concrete and catch myself up.
Three men – Josh Rutter (the show creator and choreographer), Geoff Gilson, and Stephen Bain (New Performance Festival’s very own curator) are doing sit-ups. Their sporty attire has a certain 80s flair – Geoff, shirtless, is a sporting rather unfortunate looking short shorts. There’s a strange soundtrack of distorted deep-voiced words – “This is it” is repeated. They continue to exercise, and grab skipping ropes and skip too. The concrete can’t be pleasant to work with. They’re pushing themselves harder and harder; have to be a man, can’t appear to be weak.
They get some ice, put it in a bag, and place it over themselves, their bodies reacting to the cold. Pushing it further. Then there’s some self-posturing – smothering their hair with gel, and spraying so much deodorant on each other that the open air roof momentarily stinks of the stuff. It’s an enjoyable parody of masculinity, taken to an excessive extreme.
They skip again, fast-paced music kicking in to up the tempo. They show no signs of stopping.
The show’s staked are upped when, one-by-one, more men join the trio, enough maybe for a ruby team. A referee tapes Stephen Bain’s hand to another guy, and they fight, getting themselves more wrapped up as roll after role of tape is added. Huge tires are rolled out and beaten with mallets. Men howl like wolves on opposite sides. A man appears in boxing gloves. Another walks slowly towards the audience. Others apply shaving cream to their entire faces. It’s an impressive moment, my eyes constantly darting around the space to take it all in.
There’s a dance rave, more action, and then a large, long see through phallic inflatable is blown up with fans. The men enter down a shaft, and then assemble in a round covering. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. I thought this tenuously could be a chrysalis metaphor, the men popping in and then back out to turn into butterfly equivalents. Perhaps. But this doesn’t happen. Really, it looks like a spent condom. The sperm dying, unable to achieve their purpose in life. Masculinity impotent-ised.
The show reminds me of the male camaraderie and banter you might find in a male sports team. Something quite special (or stupid?) takes place when this number of men get together. The women in the audience seemingly looked on in bemusement at what men get up to when they get together.
At times, it felt like the cast were doing things for the benefit of themselves rather than the audience, and we are excluded. But when performing for us, it’s very satisfying.
A magic shared moment was when the rain started falling (warning: come prepared). Some audience members not enjoying the show talk this as an excuse to hurriedly leave. But for me, dripping wet and forgoing any weather protection, I felt like I was getting into the man-ochistic spirit of the show.
Dance like a Butterfly Dream Boy is presented as part of the New Performance Festival, final show tonight 9pm. More information at THE EDGE.
SEE ALSO: Theatreview Review