Words by Hannah Draper.
Industrial techno is blaring through the curtain that separates the performance area from the bar when the performance starts. The audience mills in, standing around Dykegeist choreographer Eve Stainton who is smiling, dancing vigorously on a small stage wearing 90s raver clothes. Unidentified stuffed cloth forms hang from metal hooks like pieces of meat, thin metal structures are propped up around the room, a metal gate sits between two pillars and a pot of hair gel is sat in a mound of gravel.
Eve is accompanied by the musician Mica Levi who crafts the soundscape of the piece. They step onto the pallet platform together, over which the ‘meat’ hangs, while a strobe light flashes at them as Mica helps Eve put on strap on belt and take off their jeans. We are given glimpses of their bodies leaned in towards each other, the meat-like forms hang above — a sort of sinewy, dark reminder of our own animal flesh. The strobe makes it hard to watch so I look away and look back — also thinking how maybe this moment of intimacy is not for my eyes.
Eve approaches me, hones in, the sounds of a cowboy crossing the room echoes across the floor created by the small microphones strapped to Eve’s shoes. Glasses lift up as they lean in and I am met with a smile – a ‘Hi, how are you?’ No guns in sight — no shoot out imminent, I am safe. I am asked if I would feel comfortable moving with them from standing to lying. I am told in detail what will happen next; I have the insider knowledge and I am invited to become a performer, participant and player in this game. After I meet the floor, I’m asked if I would feel comfortable with them lying on top of me, facing away. I feel safe and relaxed and say yes. Afterwards, I am thanked, get up, and return to being an audience member, unscathed and actually very relaxed by feeling in a safe state of surrender and curiosity.
Eve and Mica shift the performance from club-scene, to an eerie meat market, to a hybrid-Matrix-crab-spider-creature, back to a club scene, to partnered intimacy where a word whispered in an ear signals danger, but where a word whispered in an ear is also tender, erotic and supportive. There are moments when hair is stroked and slicked with gel and a neck is held in a supportive mutual embrace again.
At another moment Eve lies prostrate in front of someone, holding their ankles, face down, tapping their feet on the ground making their body and legs pulsate. Is it orgasmic, an insect-like warning signal or mating dance? Dykegeist mocks the idea of mystery around lesbian and queer sex, making the performance of the predator figure into something so bizarre, and yet so normal and caring when Eve talks to the audience, that we are left unable to build a definitive image of the ‘character’.
We never hear the words whispered in ears as we look on. We see either a respectful shake of the head, a move away and a search through the crowd for the next person to approach. The performance addresses the fear we have of the Other and how we Other (you sound different, move different, look different) and reclaims the dehumanising process of othering by leaning into our other-than-humanness.
The scorpions that hang down from Eve’s arms signal as a warning, a tail waiting to sting, a pincer wait to bite – the latent risk believed to be held in a body that stands outside the normative and the binary. Dykegeist crafts a space that dispels ideas of the lesbian predator through heightening them to absurd and surreal limits, while presenting radical displays of consent, trust and intimacy in the setting of an industrial club space where the overall feel of the atmosphere is one of communality.
Yellow cans of Tennents handed over to audience members is how the piece ends. A familiar sign of the warmth and hospitality in the sharing of a tinny; thank you for coming, welcome, cheers – there’s nothing to be scared of here.
Dykegeist was performed at the Biscuit Factory, Edinburgh on August 22nd and 23rd 2022 as part of the Horizon Showcase.
The Horizon Showcase continues until August 28th with performances such as The Dan Daw Show, Marikscrycry’s He’s Dead, Sonia Hughes’ I am from Reykjavik and Sung Im Her’s Nutcrusher. Horizon 2022 – Horizon Showcase
Concept, choreography, performance: Eve Stainton Sound performance: Mica Levi
Producer: Michael Kitchin
Digital collage and steel sculptures: Eve Stainton
3D typography: Pauline Canavesio aka BORA
Costume: Sophie Donaldson
Dramaturgical support: Jamila Johnson-Small & Zara Truss Giles