Manipulate 2020: Remember?, Transfigured, and A Brief History of The Male Fragile Ego
Manipulate presents mesmerising and multilayered work from Nunah Theatre, Oceanallover and Jordan & Skinner
A young woman rushes onto the stage at the beginning of Nunah Theatre's work-in-progress. She is panicked, and frightened. She mumbles something about not knowing where she is and begins to plead with the audience for help. She is wearing a striking red cardigan and black leggings, with a short brown wig. She is joined on stage by three other women, all with the same tear-stained mascara cheeks and clothes.
This is a show about memory. The back wall features old analogue pictures (always visible but never referenced) and the four performers seem to reference different memories and moments, different incarnations of this woman. The cast are unrelenting in their energy, performing with something akin to ecstasy which makes them mesmerising to watch.
The stylistic dancing – full of grotesque gestures and facial expressions – against a backdrop of rave music is well-executed and demanding of our attention. The inner workings of the mind unfold unforgivingly before us. Although the narrative is a little confusing at points, it doesn’t really matter – this is a visceral and strangely affecting performance. [Joanna Brown]
Transfigured by Oceanallover begins with a cautionary note: involvement from the audience is key to the event. This involvement simultaneously fails to extend beyond mere pleasantries and idle chatter, and is crucial to the outcome of the show.
An audience member is asked to pick a card, and when they do so, one of thirteen performers head a sequence relating to the chosen character. The unique segments that follow are usually centred around movement, with the occasional stand-out solo number for accomplished vocalists such as the Queen of Sorts.
Despite a repetitive structure, Transfigured never feels dull, as there is always an element of danger to proceedings. Oceanallover – one of Scotland’s leading producers of physical theatre – have produced a multi-layered, spontaneous piece that includes imposing physical movement, a wide variety of vocals and virtuosic live music.
It has to be said that satisfaction lands with the eye before the ear, thanks the intricate and mesmerising costume design. Across the seventy-minute run time, it’s not difficult to find a small flourish or touch that has eluded from the outset.
Pick a card, any card, you won’t be disappointed. Transfigured is an explosive expression of physical movement, with the power to invoke a spectrum of emotions. [Dominic Corr]
A Brief History of The Male Fragile Ego (★★★★)
Andrea, our presenter, stands nervously greeting the audience as they enter. She tells us that she is from the ‘Society for Men’s Universal Truth’ and she is going to give us a lecture about the male ego. Fifty minutes of hilarity from Jordan & Skinner ensue, thanks to the incredible comedic abilities of solo performer Melanie Jordan and to Caitlin Skinner’s smooth direction.
Jordan’s skill is undeniable. She holds the audience rapt for a rollercoaster ride during which she unpicks issues such as gender roles, mansplaining, harassment, machoism and male emotional repression while playing a selection of characters, including William Wallace and Sigmund Freud. There is a particularly poignant moment when she talks about a man dying from suicide, and suddenly, poking fun at the ‘fragile male ego’ doesn’t seem so funny anymore.
There are also a few uncomfortable ‘it’s funny but I shouldn’t be laughing' moments which suggest that perhaps the subject matter is being tackled in a way that is a little too tongue-in-cheek and is more complex and nuanced than the performance allows for. Nevertheless, there is no denying that Jordan and Skinner have skilfully initiated a conversation that needs to be had.