Vault Festival, London – until 15 February 2020
Guest reviewer: Grace Bouchard
As I stand to leave, my foot lands on something soft as it squashes into the ground. I pick up my shoe to see a glistening, pink strawberry, now jam, on the floor. That’s a shame, I think to myself. I could have eaten that.
Forty minutes earlier, I entered the Cavern at The Vaults to watch Same Same Collective’s drop dead gorgeous. Upon following a lit walkway, I arrive at my seat, large wooden benches reminiscent of church pews arranged in the round. The ceiling is high and echoes with the hushed tones of the spectators, the room feels much like an abandoned place of worship. It invites a certain formality and reverence. In the centre is a large, round table lit directly from above, creating an eclipse-like lighting effect on the ground. On it sits fruit of all colours, the juice glistening under the lights. They look like jewels in a crown – it’s making me hungry.
What ensues begins as a delicate and hauntingly watchable, choreographed movement sequence to Nelly, by Luiz Bonfa, played on a loop. It later descends into an almost carnal need for food and freedom. It is certainly a visceral piece, by the end we have watched these women gorge themselves on fruit – tearing apart watermelons with their bare hands and allowing the juices to run down their chins and their necks. The more they eat, the more emboldened they become to behave ‘badly’. Through movement, moments of perfect clowning, and almost-unending feasting, the ensemble have transposed the female experience and made it a tangible thing that you feel you could physically wrestle with, as so many of us do in daily life.
Loosely based on a short story in which a woman persists with her much frowned-upon habit of eating rice crackers in bed because having an empty mouth feels lonely, performers Emma Brand, Zin Tzu-Ying Yang, YiTing Huang and Thandiwe Van Wesenbeeck have devised a theatrical experience exploring female appetite and society’s pressure for women to conform. A multidisciplinary group of international performers, they have created a stunning and universal piece that speaks to all audience members, as the suppression of women’s appetites is long-standing and global.
drop dead gorgeous needs to be experienced as opposed to read about. Make sure to bring with you all of your senses (as it will call upon them), but most importantly, bring your appetite.