Who said God was a He? And who said ‘He’ created man in his image? With a quirky sense of humour, four performers/fellow creators and an alternative God in the sky, choreographer Vincent Riebeek allows for multiple alternative origin stories for humankind. I saw the show at Frascati on 20 October.
After the radiant almighty (Victoria Caram) projected onto the backdrop has explained how time is a vast, undefined blur, the four performers start crawling across the floor like the first creatures that crept from the primal waters. They are dressed in coloured leotards with spots in the shape of amoebas. They soon learn to crawl, to kneel, to stand, walk and speak.
“I was a good girl” says one. “You were a good girl” answers another. “I was a good girl” a third tries on the self-definition, and a chorus grows with the performers uttering, answering, echoing and appropriating statements that go from “I was a good boy” to “I was a good mother who loved sex”, “This is work” “Body positivity” and “This is boring”. And all the while, the four adopt a string of random provocative poses to increasingly comical effect. Allocating the words to different speakers plus the gap between the words and the poses queers the at first inconspicuous lines.
The theme of the show is an individual’s origin story, here related to gender. The four characters tell us in words and physical performance how and when they became themselves, or how they are getting there. But although there is a good deal of quirky humour, Riebeek, who I first got to know through his collaborations with Florentina Holzinger, doesn’t play safe. In the course of the show, the characters portrayed by Rose Acras, Fernando Belfiore, Nica Roses and Slim Soledad each peer, with the audience as witnesses, into some form of personal hell.
There is a constant play with what is real and what is enacted, and the performers’ bodies are at stake – are they injured, are they horny, are they doing drugs? The questions pile up as the show progresses, convincingly, and slily, driving home the general idea that what is real and what is fake is not in the eye of the beholder. “I am nonbinary, but everyone always thinks I’m cis,” the performers cry out.
The overall look and feel of the show are campy and enjoyably outrageous. But camp is a mirror. An exaggerated, intensified mirror that serves to show each audience member how we inhabit and project our own gender, be it cis, trans, non-binary, divine or other, and caught up as we are in the same old boy-girl creation story for 2021 years. If handled effectively, like Riebeek and his team do in Uchronia, this mirror is hugely valuable. Because to really be able to see the other, we must be able to see ourselves first. We meet at this point in history on either side of the fourth wall, and happily take it down as we meet around the cotton candy machine.