16 October 2009

Look Mummy I’m Dancing

MIAF 2009
Look Mummy I’m Dancing
Melbourne International Arts Festival and Vanessa/Swanlake
14 October 2009
the Arts Centre, Fairfax Studio


Vanessa Van Durme assures us that, despite her frustration about how men treat women in supermarkets, she isn’t another one of those bitter chicks with penis envy, because she never liked hers and left it in Morocco in 1975.

Created in Ghent, a Belgium city that seems to specialise in making amazing theatre, Look Mummy I’m Dancing is Vanessa’s monologue (which she can perform in four languages) that has toured Europe and the USA.

Very personal, beautifully sad and selectively honest, she reflects on her 60 years and questions if she made the right decision to undergo a sex change operation and choose to make her soul, mind and genitals reflect the same gender. She describes some very traumatic and confronting experiences that accompanied her ‘disorder’ and her choices, but there wasn’t a moment when I thought that she ever regretted her choice, and I’m still not sure if she’s happy.

Vanessa’s story is captivating and I’d happily listen to her for hours or sit down and have a chat about silky petticoats and big cocks, but Look Mummy I’m Dancing is being presented in our international arts festival and, well, I like my arts festivals to show me something that I haven’t seen before.

Theatrically there is nothing spectacular or unique about a woman talking on a sparsely decorated stage. Dramatically, I would have liked to see more of the other characters (the only one I felt we nearly knew was Fatimah the nurse who told Vanessa that she had a lovely little pussy) and more about Vanessa’s relationships with these people.

And, throughout the show, I couldn’t help wondering if any of us would have been there if she was a 60-year-old woman born with a vagina talking about her life – or if she would have been able to create a show in the first place. I admit that my inner-voyeur went along because of curiosity (and a love of gory operation stories); my inner-intellect adored the discussion of gender identification as distinct from sexuality; my ego wished that my tits looked that good; my inner-feminist rolled her eyes when Vanessa told us that the gone penis was large enough for the doctor removing it to be impressed; but my story loving, theatre-snobby, opinion-blabbing self wanted to see something with more balls.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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