A before thought:
I’d been told Trilogy was like a festival; a joyous, celebratory riot of female flesh.
I needed that. I bought a ticket instantly.
The last few weeks have been awash with general-purpose sorrow. Perhaps it is just the cold sinking in through my always-too-thin clothes (I never learnt to layer) or perhaps the constant grey above me just seeped in.
But there was something else: I’ve been grieving my body.
I used to berate my body constantly. I was young then and just learning to live out of home, just working out how to feed myself and who I was without a school uniform.
I remember being pretty confident in my body for a while there. Not ‘confident’ so much as ‘unthinking’. Then I emerged from teenage-hood and took off my clothes for cameras and things change. My body changed – I got thin and sleek and hairless – but I also became much more aware of it. I saw myself from every angle. And it was mostly a good sight although I still apologised to photographers every time I took off my clothes:
“Sorry, I just ate lunch.”
“Thank you. Sorry, again.”
But I’m learning something about aging and bodies: accepting your body isn’t a one-time thing. You don’t make peace with it once at twenty-two, tick that off your list and get on with your life. For some of us – perhaps all of us, I don’t know – as your body changes you need to accept it again and again.
This is who you are right now, hey?
This is who I am right now
You good with that?
Working on it
My colleague told me the work filled her up. Re-plenished her. I wanted that.
I want a lot of re- words in my life right now:
Restore, renew, recharge, reward, replenish, reinvigorate, requestion, re-forgive, re-embrace.
Those are some big ‘re’s to ask of a piece of theatre.
A during thought:
Watch me swing from emotion to emotion
I oscillate wildly
Eyes and mouth wide
The sight of those bodies
Dozens and dozens of them
A mass of joy and fearless flesh
Filled me up
The total miracle that a woman’s body is
Not just because it can ‘be life’
(Although, what a privilege it was to see one of the makers perform pregnant)
But because it bares her
Bodies that carry women through this world
The first act culminates in an incredible dance party. At interval we wondered at the positioning of this moment so early in the piece: you couldn’t top that. We had simply never seen anything like it. How could any sight or words match it as a final image?
By the end of the work I knew why we started with this dance of pure delight.
As a feminist and female artist, I often ask myself how do I tell stories of female victimisation without making females the victims. Over the course of the next two acts we saw incredible footage of Norman Mailer attempting repeatedly to silence and shame Jill Johnston (“Come on, Jill. Be a lady.”), we heard grief, rage and truly terrible statistics on sexual violence. I cried when the performers intoned ‘2016’ again and again. The number seemed suddenly so very big, the years so innumerable and yet here we are, still hurting. Still being hurt.
But the overall feeling that one takes from this work is joy, strength and power. The performer never appear disempowered. They are whole-heartedly empowered, their bodies strong, their voices loud, their vision clear, their heritage known.
Women are gutsy motherfuckers. So why did they start with the biggest single image in the show? We needed to set a tone of love, courage, joy and strength. They started by stating a fact: women and their bodies are badass. Got it? Good. Okay. Lets go.
I left the theatre with the desperate urge to call my mother. The feminist who raised me, whose strong body and bore three feminist daughters, whose mind is fierce and whose heart is massive. I spoke to her at the bus stop. “I wish you had been there. I would have loved to see that with you.” Beside me, another woman was on the phone. “There was – like – fifty naked women! Dancing! And the singing! I wish you had seen it!” And I just knew she was talking to her mother too. This was a show that made you want to call your mum, share this with her and thank.
It made me want to thank a lot of women. And myself. And my body. It carries me through this world. What a miracle that is.
I saw Nic Green’s Trilogy at Artshouse in Melbourne. I thank them for programming this incredible and important work.