Words by Angel Dust.
The stage lights are off, the curtains are all pulled back revealing the metal structures that are holding everything together, a faint light from the door that performers use to go backstage at the right side communicates in a diagonal with a desk lamp on the left foreground of the stage illuminating a DJ looping set. Here, a hand occasionally rises from below the desk, whereby lies the source — the mouth of an eerie soundscape that accompanies the audience as it enters the theatre. Once everyone is seated and the chit-chat dies down, the soundscape starts becoming more complex. It alludes to a creature living deep underground, that growls shrills wheezes chews and meows like a pussy once or twice just to remind you it is not totally unrelated to life above ground.
Slowly a mass of bodies, following the diagonal of the light, begins to move in a worm like manner, the bodies at the end of the line slowly crawling their way to the front. Once the creature has reached centre of stage the lights switch on, the last body in line gets farted out of the creature, the soundscape turns into beats and the rest of the bodies start popping out. And from a faceless mass that growls and meows, manifest a thousand possibilities of what it means to be a woman, to be a human, to be a performer.
An assortment of trivial objects on stage, that seemed as if they were sourced randomly from the street the morning before the performance, become a playground of meaning that is not merely a background or a setting but the objects become almost performers themselves and the line between them and the humans onstage is blurry.
A performer attempting to dive and swim into a dry uninflated kids swimming pool, a performer carrying a shopping cart on their back while moving on all fours, a woman running around compulsively collecting all the clothes that all other performers took off, someone eating a banana on a stool, a cabaret performer with an umbrella leg who also really enjoys reading, a woman made out of stiletto boots, a lesbian romance, a broom lady; these are some of the images and some of the ways in which the all-female collective reclaims re-appropriates and exposes stereotypes and norms to hysteria.
At one point, one of the performers sits on top of the shopping cart, another performer quickly grabs the cart and excitingly greets the audience. She then proceeds to present us Jessica saying: “This is Jessica! She is made out of water and since she was a little kid she of course wanted to become a ballerina. Jessica can also speak. How are you Jessica?”. Jessica replies with a very dull grungy “I’m FINE…”, clearly not very fine. What follows is a whirlpool that ends up in a flock that then breaks up with one of them grabbing and spinning the shopping cart in the background, while the rest of them are bending their s p i n e s at the foreground. Those thirty seconds kept me on edge!
The show ended the way it started, with all the bodies re-coalescing to that original creature which is ambiguous whether it is their source of power as a collective, or referring to the norms of patriarchal capitalist mass culture which the collective strives to subvert and lean away from. Overall, it appears the collective is more concerned with principles rather than choreography and there is a very clear connection/engagement they have to post-modern dance, while still managing to retain a coherent narrative/theme in their show.
MASS HYSTERIA, broke all the rules of what “Yoga at the Park” is meant to look like and tapped into a part of the female collective conscious that is not afraid to get messy and have fun, that embraces chaos, that resists structures and that is driven from the unknown. As I exit the theatre at the end of the show, a girl says “this was weird, I am confused as to what this was about”. And I think the answer it not straightforward, perhaps it was about nothing but it also felt like it was about everything. Everything that is left unsaid or that is said but not fully comprehended through words.
But at the core of it was a desire and need for more curiosity, for fun and for collective empowerment. These gals are to look out for, they inspire me and excite me about the potential of contemporary performance! And kudos to the shopping cart as well for its brilliant performance it must have been exhausted after all that spinning!
This performance was part of Resolution ’20 at The Place on February 19th 2020. You can follow the collective on Instagram @masshysteriacollective.