Words by Katie Hagan. *please note this contains sexual references* Milan’s Game is 15+.
Nothing seems out-of-bounds in AllouAqui Dance Theatre Company’s Milan’s Game. Over the course of 52 minutes, audience members are swept up in a couple’s hurricane of highs and lows; whirling in the uninhibited romanticism of their ‘One Night in Paris’ fantasy only to crash land when things go beyond the fringe and get super absurd. Artistic directors Xavier De Santos and Delicia Sefiha play the part of Lucas and Zoe the combustible couple in question, who experiment with role play among other things to keep a staling 8-year relationship fresh.
Milan’s Game opens on a darkly lit, borderline domestic scene. It’s bijoux and mysterious, yet basic cream cushions strewn haphazardly on a sofa at the front of the stage foretell comfort and functionality. Zoe enters militant, standing feet apart. Lucas follows crawling, squeezing between Zoe’s anchored legs, Zoe jolting him with her knees. Ceremoniously she lifts a diamond necklace from her chest, pulls it tight and takes it to Lucas’ neck like a leash.
With the necklace — her symbol of influence — back on her body, Zoe glides with goddess-like indifference to the front of the stage, beckoning to Lucas who drags his body like a sack of sand heavily to her ushering. Weighty, breathy, at times serpentine movement begins; the colourless and muffly white noise of Domenico Lopresti’s sound operation seeping in from the shadows.
Quite unexpectedly, the lights come up. “Zoe, did you go shopping today?” asks Lucas. A reference to food shopping ends Zoe’s dominance. Discussion turns to everyday routine and day-to-day-business, the scent of what came before ousted. Talk about a major sex turn off!!
Throughout Milan’s Game the dizzy rhythm chops and changes asymmetrically from the darkly sexual to the inert, encapsulating the excitement and mundanity that characterise long-term relationships. My logic tells me the transitions from one vignette to the other could be smoother, yet my irrationality revels in the drama of such flux. Besides, what relationship is always a breeze?
In its creation, the piece has daringly extrapolated taboos, confronting the likes of S&M, and fetish head-on as opposed to shirking from controversial topics in fear of reproach.
At one point, Zoe sits legs astride, slicing a watermelon open with a knife by her crotch. She feeds the fleshy slices to Lucas who lays languidly, eagerly eating them up. Implicitly explicit, it’s a bold, devilish and kinky scene illuminating the freakish tastes of foreplay.
Milan’s Game is a candid portrayal of the fantasy, tenderness, humour and monotony within long-term relationships. Yet, with such an eyeball-to-eyeball focus on S&M and fetishes in the piece, could there be a seat reserved for some discussion about consent? Even when indulging in sexual fantasies within relationships where trust is obvious, should verbal consent still be a thing? I think so.
I’d avoid making a suggestion here if Milan’s Game was abstract. But, if Lucas and Zoe are comfortable enough to argue over bad food shopping behaviours, and casually swear at each other without causing offence, the reality is they’d probably bring consent to the table. I think there is definitely potential here to illuminate this.
Perhaps consent was not an area they wanted to get into in Milan’s Game and I am at fault, belabouring my point. Perhaps I have not grasped Milan’s Game’s intentions fully, either that or they’re not obvious enough. Maybe Milan’s Game is a criticism of getting too carried away when it comes to sex games. Certainly the critical eye could be developed here, as at present, I feel the satire is mainly in relation to the comedic ‘real life’ aspects such as unsexy food shopping (it’s hardly bedroom talk!)
In our current social context, I felt that certain aspects needed to be as explicit as the taboos the artists so valiantly put to question. The sex stuff that Milan’s Game brings to the fore is pretty damn hardcore after all.
Performers: Delicia Sefiha, Xavier De Santos. Voice over: Samuel De la Torre (also AD of AllouAqui). Lighting technician: Alex Latham. Camera operators: Eve Betts, Mariana Marcelino, Samuel De La Torre. Sound operator: Domenico Lopresti. Assistants: Christine Hughes, Beatrice May. Header image: Nigel Adams.
Milan’s Game is available to watch for free until 17th June. Donations are welcome!