Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Mea Culpa

Mea Culpa
Choreographer: Cloé Fournier
Lennox Theatre, Riverside
October 17-19, 2019

In her latest dance-theatre ensemble work director-choreographer Cloé Fournier explores the ways in which women have been constructed by a patriarchal society to adapt constantly to male demands.

The work suggests or implies that women, cast into a submissive role by their physical form, are like robots or automata moving at the behest of an invisible power referred to as IT. The futuristic setting and visual language of sci-fi movies is a clever metaphor.

The ensemble – Imogen Cranna, Isabella Coluccio, Nicola Ford, Anna McCulla, Natalie Pelarek and Daniel Zambrana – are symbolically attired in tight-fitting flesh-coloured corsets and brassiere tops which both emphasises their form and its constraint. Clever use of elastic bands to define sections of their legs and arms makes them resemble the wooden mannequins used by artists who can manipulate limbs and torsos in order to conform to their perspective.

Initially, the ensemble moves at the command of an older woman (Cloé Fournier), dressed in blue and wearing sparkling golden high-heeled shoes, the ultimate symbol of female servitude. That she is only a lackey is indicated by her entry onto the stage mounted on a trolley, and although a victim herself of male domination, is willing to drill the ensemble into the routines of obedience and self-abnegation. Issuing sharp, shrill commands, she demands constant and strenuous effort from the group, setting them difficult and painful tasks.

It seems they are being punished for being female, and should be assigned to perpetual discomfort. The “Mea Culpa” of the title, taken from the Confiteor, is the prayer said during the Penitential Act. The phrase means “I am to blame” and is an acknowledgement of wrongdoing: the sin, in this case, is to be created female. It is difficult for women to move out of this state of imposed guilt as they are complicit in it.

Can it be possible that they could ever conceive of themselves through their own eyes?

This trans-human-female community struggle to break out of their collective containment so graphically represented by their attempts to escape from an encapsulating plastic bag. Eventually, stomping and hissing in a kind of Bacchanalian ecstasy (keeping in mind that this in itself is a male concept), they taste pleasure and shed the elastic bands that bind them.

An unusual theatrical experience, Mea Culpa is compelling and provocative, and the commitment and coordination of the ensemble of dancers impressive.


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