[Raspberry sauce with a side of body horror]
Jessie McCall’s latest choreographic offering I Get So Emotional Baby demonstrates the inexhaustible vocabulary of the human form. Palpable female emotion collides with references to the male gaze in an engrossing and stimulating work.
The movement focused I Get So Emotional Baby offers a tightly woven series of images and motifs pertaining to both realities and constructed fantasies of the female body and female emotion. The performers Sofia McIntyre, Anu Khapung, Sharvon Mortimer, and Evie Logan (alternate performer) are wrapped in pastel mesh, nude leotards, and plastic underpants and seem to be on the verge of collapsing into a pile of bloodied limbs at any given point. There is the sensation of being consumed by oneself, perhaps the uterus is a blackhole and the gravitational pull it exerts is only sometimes bearable.
The piece is one of shimmering juxtapositions : familiar karaoke songs are warped into nightmarish dance tracks, a massive pink claw clip becomes a toothed maw, an adult woman dances with blood running down her thighs while wearing a tee-shirt which reads “Babygirl”.
The set design amplifies these contrasts. At once reminiscent of an abattoir, a 70s love hotel, and Meret Oppenheim’s surrealist Object (a fur lined teacup and saucer for those unfamiliar with the work), the stage is marked out by curtains of transparent PVC and a deep carpet of creamy fur. It all seems to speak to a central exploration of the familiar made unfamiliar, expected firmness (the stage for example) made soft to touch, and the bodies of women, so often required to be malleable and receptive, made defiant.
I Get So Emotional Baby is balanced on the knife’s edge between the perceptive and the perverse. Sometimes aspects are forced off balance by theatrical limitations. Shadowy pink stains on the carpet of fur left by previous runs provide an outline for both the overall structure of the piece and a map of the choreography. I am uncertain if these stains take some of the punch out of the punchline (which I will not entirely spoil) or if the penultimate action was devised to respond to the impossibility of keeping the cream fur clean. Either way, it reads as an opportunistic tilt at the gendering of domestic labour.
At other points the work delivers moments of truly satisfying theatricality. A combination of well-chosen props and concealed lighting sources produce a flood of striking images, nature intersects with science fiction, visual references wash over each other in layers.
Movement focused works ask more of their audiences – for some this will be unfamiliar in a world of heavy exposition and the constant breaking of the fourth wall. Audiences should know, however, that the result of their invested time and concentration is far richer than that of being spoon-fed a narrative. In engaging in interpretation, the work becomes a palimpsest, with each audience member layering their individual knowledge and experiences onto the action before them. This shared meaning making is evidenced by laughs of recognition.
I Get So Emotional Baby is a complex and engaging investigation of the expression of emotions, of inhabiting a female body, and of inhabiting a hostile world. Jessie McCall and her team of collaborators have created a work which emphatically proves that the body can express what the mouth cannot.
I Get So Emotional Baby plays Basement Theatre the 11th to the 22nd of October, 2022