Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: 'Trinity' at the Peckham Asylum, 21st June 2016

Trinity reviewed by David James

Rating: 3 Stars

It's Wednesday evening and London has been sweatily stunned by a nuclear heatwave. A thick haze oozes from the asphalt, the tube has become a temporary sauna, London Zoo's resident penguin colony is wishing they could change out of their tuxedos. So what better place to be than in a sweltering bombed out church with a corrugated iron roof, where sucking in a lungful of humid air takes real effort?

I'm a sticky mess, fanning myself with a programme, sweat stinging my eyes and my bottle of water quickly depleted. But if I'm roasting, how on earth must the dancer dressed like a giant vulva feel?

Ovalhouse and BraveNewWorld's Trinity is a bit like being trapped in a really good music video - but one in which the star is mysteriously absent. It's an abstract procession of bizarre & beautiful costumes and ritualistic dancing set to some extremely monged music. Taken purely on its own merits it's a trip. Nightmare nuns troop across the stage with spotlights shining out of her face, a mutated pregnant monster woman clumsily wobbles through the crowd, a woman made out of charcoal crumbles before our eyes. It's dead cool, if you're into the whole pretty weirdness thing.

But what does it mean? I think that a successful piece of theatre should be able to communicate what it's about without the audience having to resort to supplemental material. With that in mind, I purposefully didn't read the supplied programme before going in.

I worked out pretty quickly that it was about the historical subjugation of women. The play is stuffed full of yonic imagery, with the highlight being the 'nun' costume transforming into a giant flapping vulva with the nun's hood becoming a clitoral hood. There's also a tonne of religious imagery, all amplified by the religious setting. It's easy to glance up, past the plaques of dead Victorians, and see the stained glass, lily-white Jesuses peering down at us, bemused by what's going on in his Dad's front room.

So, what I got from it was a critique of how Christianity has oppressed and objectified women over the centuries, stealing the essential power of the matriarchy and enslaving women as biological machines whose function is to cook, clean and pump out the next generation of misogynistic zealots. 

How did I do? The programme sez: "Trinity explores the aesthetics of gender and the idea of sacredness in our visual culture, challenging the objectification and iconification of the female form, from the Venus of Willendorf to the Virgin Mary. The performance questions the ethics and politics involved in the representation, mutation and transformation of the body in our collective visual consciousness..." 

Well, I guess I was in the right ballpark at least. Trinity is one of those shows in which you get out precisely as much as you're willing to put in. Some people will probably dismiss it as a load of pretentious/portentous bollocks, but give it a fair shake and try and think about what you're seeing and it kinda, sorta, nearly comes together in a satisfying way.

And at least it looks and sounds great. Guoda Jaruseviciute, Valentina Ceschi and Kate Lane are all talented, committed performers (and they must have been literally cooking in those costumes), and the technical and artistic design doesn't put a foot wrong. 

But, despite the fact that I did genuinely enjoy myself, I suspect that the show is being deliberately obscurantist to camouflage that, for all the top notch visuals, there's a bit less going on under the hood than the programme claims. 

Trinity is at the Peckham Asylum until 27 June. Tickets here.

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