This is what I did last week:
Danced naked onstage at The Barbican Theatre with 150 other women (twice, to a combined crowd of about 2500 people).
Yeah, I know!
It wasn’t just because I am a shameless exhibitionist egomaniac. No. It was for Art and it was for Feminism. God, I so badly want to do justice to my description of what happened but, as usual in this blog, it’s just going to pour out willy-nilly (unfortunate choice of phrase in this context) so let’s go…
I had heard mutterings about Trilogy, a show created by Nic Green and four others which had been a big hit on the Edinburgh Fringe last year, and which was coming to London. I knew that it dealt with the dreadfully unfashionable subject of feminism, and yet, it had garnered great reviews and the company hadn’t been run out of town by men with sticks. When I saw an ad asking for women to volunteer to dance naked in the show, I didn’t hesitate. I love shows that have a rogue-element, like the participation of ‘real-people’, and, having once performed a little show naked many years ago, I was interested to see if I could rise to the challenge of getting my older, less-nubile bod out, and carry it with pride. Perhaps more difficult for me to contemplate was the fact I would have to be following steps in a dance. Now, people that know me will attest to the fact that I can boogie with the best of them in a disco-setting, but to memorise and perform a routine, in just a few short evening’s rehearsals, well…let’s just say Ginger Rogers wouldn’t have had anything to worry about.
So, a mass gathering of women happened on Monday 18 Jan in the Barbie (that’s theatre, not politically incorrect doll) and we were divided up into 4 groups to work with a facilitator/actor from the show. My group was led by Jodie (fab:warm, kind, patient). Over 4 nights, we pieced together our routine, which would be complimentary to the routines being practised by the other groups. Along the way, we got to know one another, talked about stuff personal and political, and began to feel like a cohesive unit. There were more younger women than older, more thinner than fatter, but still, it was a good spread of types and experience, and I kinda liked it that I was almost an elder – someone who had been around for Feminism in the 80’s, had earned my stripes, got disillusioned and was now coming back to find out where it all went wrong, and if there was a place for the F-word again.
I drifted towards women of a similar age who felt like me, and we had some great chats about our sadness that Women’s Rights had become a dirty concept, that we never called ourselves ‘feminists’ any more, that young women and girls were suffering from unhealthy expectations of them as sex-objects, and that the patriarchy seemed to have reestablished itself in so many ways that were disrespectful or harmful to women.
Then Friday came, and we had to perform. Most of us hadn’t seen the whole of Trilogy, so we didn’t even know what we were a part of. We were doing our number at the end of the first part of the three, so we saw what Nic and Laura were doing just before we came on and it was exhilarating – dance and chanting, funny and inspiring – so we felt confident in our participation. But I didnt see the rest of the show till after our spot that night, and I’m glad to say, I was proud to be a part of it.
Trilogy is a call to arms, metaphorically speaking. It represents a revival of feminism for a new generation (the creators are all in their mid-twenties) and a great consolation to those of us who thought the movement had been crushed by the market, and by laziness, and by cruelty. It is an unusual show, full of surprises, mixed media, agit-prop, dance and artistic panache. I could not have created this show as its strengths lie in areas that are not my realms of expertise. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But, the effect of it, on so many in the audience and those of us who participated…
Wow. After our boisterous, stomping, funny, powerful dance, all of us were high as kites. Backstage before and after was such a great atmosphere. We all felt part of something special, something momentous. It was so joyous doing the dance (to The Pixies and the Clash, two of my favourite bands EVER) and my lack of finesse was utterly irrelevant. From friends in the audience, I heard that the spectacle was amazing, uplifting and beautiful. And most importantly, NOT a sexually titillating thing, but an expression of natural, normal, non-airbrushed women working together to create a powerful, glorious manifestation of hope. As I talked to women young and old at our first-night party, I felt alive and punchy again. In the days since, I feel that my body has come back to me, with all its lumps, bumps, lines and marks, it is mine, and it is fine, and it’ll do all I need it to do in my work and life. And I am a feminist, yes I am, and if you don’t like it, tough luck, because I’m not going to apologise for it any more. And I’m not going to be negative about The Future (I was getting so DOWN about the planet, and politics and war and whatever) because what good does that do? No, I am going to celebrate me and my sex and all the good stuff in the universe. So, stick that in your pipe and smoke it, patriarchal oppressors…
Thank you, Trilogy.