A defiant feminist response to a culture of body hatred
The influential psychoanalyst Susie Orbach, author of the bestselling Fat Is a Feminist Issue, describes ‘beauty terror’ and crippling dissatisfaction with our bodies as having reached near epidemic levels in our culture. Struggling to conform to a narrow physical ideal defined by magazines and those sashaying down the catwalk with legs like toothpicks, Orbach argues that women turn to obsessive dieting, detoxing, irrigating, exercising, primping and psychological flagellating.
As an interactive piece of dance theatre, Trilogy is a defiant feminist response to this culture of body hatred. With the Clash playing loudly in the background, it starts with around 20 women, including local volunteers, dancing wildly and without a hint of self-consciousness, all of them naked as the day they were born.
Women of all ages and body shapes take part, and it seems like everyone involved feels liberated in their nudity, even joyously surprised and delighted at being on stage and in the nip. It is anarchic.
The female dancers shake their hair loose and give themselves up to a half-choreographed, half-freestyle mad Dionysian dance, and while part of me doen’t know where to look, the other part cann’t help but feel buoyed up by the positive energy in the room. Here was a group of women abundantly happy in their own skin.
The second part of the movement ses Nic Green, Laura Bradshaw and three other dancers, including one forlorn male, give a dance interpretation of Town Bloody Hall, the 1971 debate on the women’s liberation movement famously chaired by a boorish and semi-bored looking Norman Mailer.
As clips of the debate are played - Jill Johnston chanting about all women being lesbians, then Germaine Greer holding forth on the egotism of the male artist – the dancers respond by again slowly derobing, then twisting themselves into all kinds of group configurations, then squatting or reverentially vibrating to the energy of the words. Cast as the typical patriarchal oppressor of the sisterhood, there is the mandatory booing at Mailer.
The third part is a kind of pep talk encouraging women to write our own ‘her-stories’, and end with some nude singing of 'Jerusalem', once a suffragette anthem.
It is understandable that The Guardian debates whether Trilogy is more ‘theatrical Gok Wan’ than coherent feminist statement. Trilogy talks vaguely about female body anxieties, then uncomplicatedly throws itself behind second-wave feminist ideas that were cast off by the third-wave, which rediscovers gender as performative, socially constructed and more like a spectrum than a fixed, antagonistic binary.
But the stage isn’t the place for heavy and dry intellection, and what Trilogy does - in so far as it allows women to defy their body anxieties while the music plays - is bold and brave.
We’ve all been there, in that place of self-loathing, feeling worthless because the dress doesn’t fit or the ex said we had a fat behind. Trilogy invites women to shed this negative psychology, embrace those flaws and cellulite, and if you’re so minded, take off all your clothes and sing 'Jerusalem'. Thank God in his infinite mercy this last bit is optional.