Unabashed and cheerful celebration of human bodies
By Margaret Wieringa
It’s rare to see an overweight body in underwear anywhere. The media is mostly about the traditional construct of ‘the body beautiful’, and even plus-sized models are posed to reveal only that which is deemed attractive – the curve of a large breast or the roundness of some junk in the trunk. But normal large men and women?
Created by Force Majeure under the artistic direction of Kate Champion in collaboration with artist and activist Kelli Jean Drinkwater, Nothing to Lose is a performance art piece powerfully choreographed by Ghenoa Gela that uses personal experiences to embrace the fat body. It is at times confronting, challenging the audience to consider words and phrases they may have used or heard used toward large people: “What a pretty face”, “Haven’t you had enough?”, “Does your back hurt?”, and many more. At one stage, a group of audience volunteers were invited onstage to physically explore the bodies of the dancers – an exercise that mostly provoked awkward laughter.
The cast started onstage in near darkness as the audience moved into their seats, and when the house lights came down, they writhed about each other on the stage in very dim light. This continued for some time and had the feel of an exploratory exercise that the group may have completed in development of the work rather than a final piece. Unfortunately, it was not the only piece that felt under-prepared. At times some of the sequences felt longer than necessary, and I found the initial confrontation had lost its impact by the time the cast had moved onto the next scene.
Luckily, after a few scenes, the cast pushed pedestals into the space and arranged themselves on them to dance a beautifully synchronised piece. It was in this that I saw exactly how good the show could be. Each body was highlighted by the harsh lighting, frankly revealing the flaws and dimples that in daily life we mostly strive to hide. It was beautiful.
And then there was the jiggly dance – a delightful number with each body moving in a uniquely wobbly way and with exaggerated facial expressions that sent giggles rippling through the theatre. The performance ended on a high, with a hip-hop dance number performed by an extended cast that drew cheers from the audience. Nothing to Lose is at times awkward and a little uneven, but ultimately both triumphant and entertaining.
Nothing to Lose is playing at the Malthouse Theatre until March 21. Tickets can be booked at http://malthousetheatre.com.au/whats-on/nothing-to-lose