HR1: The Grand Opening

The Grand Opening“/  Post-Pesters I
Marijs Boulogne’s latest exploration is equally as in your face as all her work — why hide colossal truths? (See: A Ritual of Rude and Naughty Girls – above, under his writings.)
After having taken the audience on a poetic journey down a pathologist’s fibre-optic microscope in ‘The Anatomy Lesson’, she now seeks to magnify the body tissues to a point where they dwarf all ambiguity; we relate to our dearest organs because we must.

Following the strong — content dictates form — strand of previous work that also confronts issues around women’s reproductive health, this piece employs that most female of activity – the art of crochet. Using remnants of CairfulTM, a new miracle fabric, Marijs and co-worker Laura Verlinden have developed their own macro-handwork techniques.

The results fly beyond intricate doilies and ornamental objects of admiration, to a landscape of frilly monsters — And although this could be a personal association, once blown out of all proportion, half familiar crocheted rose blossoms quickly resemble the female body’s holiest shrine… In the presence of such a force, powerful relationships can be considered…

Bembo had wanted to make a piece about applied, post-cathartic ‘goodness’; Marijs possessed a haunting vision. Under the Human Rite umbrella, working together would provide a test of the process. Perhaps our miracle would emerge…

My choice of research fellow in Marijs Boulogne, seemed a Godsend. Marijs’s themes are uncompromising.
 My earliest notes for the project that would become The Grand Opening start with the simple recipe: ‘create the ritual, then explain it (or not).’ This seems an accurate description of our Bergen public exploration, March 2012.
In our Post-Pest theatrical laboratory, we would seek to create an infectious antidote
to deep despair, and provide a visceral experience of the contrary. Other than that, the project demarcation lines were unclear. I proposed to make a ritual involving several actors. Marijs suggested a two-hander of practical/economic grounds.

I embraced this idea; it liberated things dramaturgically: goodness between two people could be amplified when exercised through the creation of life-sized puppets; the need to create and animate the puppets would be generated by the insidious resistance inherent in the two people. Over an exquisite script meeting dinner at a restaurant featuring the cuisine of Isle de la Réunion, Marijs slid in her surprise: She had long wished to make a giant ‘female sexual organ’ puppet. Raised with the laws of improvisational theatre, one does not immediately say no…

Revenge of the Frilly Table Ornaments

Arriving in Brussels for initial project development rehearsals, I met a fait accompli.
A team of three women was hard at work exploring the art of mega-doilies. Our ritual would become a contemplation on female pride. I was to be given a glimpse behind the lace curtain at the female culture of crocheting as passed from grandmother to granddaughter. It would not be plain sailing..


First hangingAfter week one of our initial rehearsal, the Davies/Boulogne conspiracy had to take a decidedly different direction that was outlined in the project proposal. The Post–traumatic exploration of infectious generosity would have to become project number two, or three.   In the interim, a somewhat different Human Rite needed to be celebrated…

Boulogne has a project pending that has explosive potential for reclaiming the sacred realm of sexuality.  This was not foreign territory to the proposed piece,
but rather a gentle focus on a key aspect. One can protest that this theme has been thoroughly explored by dozens of self-obsessed voices – that the general theme behind Post-Pesters promised a more imperative societal balm. Our only defense is, by moving into this territory in such a bold manner, we will be better placed to tackle the next one.

Some of the developments seem substantial diversions. An orchestra has become integral. The performing duo has become either a quartet, or an apparent solo. The readily handled puppets clothed in second hand garments, have been transformed into large amorphous glandular body parts crocheted from rolls of light miracle fibre, and containing one or two animators. Between the musical and sculptural elements, Davies faces a journey as male representative that is fraught with personal danger.

The challenge is daunting, but the message from the women is clear; this must be done. Everyman is to respectfully meets his maker…

To exist in the same space as a four meter high vulva, felt what once was called ‘awesome’. In the enormous work spaces of a converted Belgian brewery, to approach ‘Her Pinkness’ at all was breathtaking. I had been smuggled into Shangri–La.
Given this privilege of entering the temple; to avoid making a travesty of her sacred existence, I as man, would have to proceed gingerly and with utmost respect.

Faced with my creeping paralysis, I provisionally sketched a scenario that allowed a generous twenty-five minute almost silent contemplative seance. This could function as psychic safety cushion; an unguided meditation where the audience could acknowledge that we weren’t about to insist upon parading our burlesque cleverness, but would rather allow them to be gently confronted with their own array of gynecological associations.


Cozy goes Crazy
But lab rats may also have a life of their own. As man, and privileged outsider, I could only offer my blood, thoughts, sweat, wails, and ultimately head. Above all this would have to become the women’s piece. I had been granted access through the most generous act of trust; the male meeting with The Grand Opening mustn’t reinforce the commodification of the human body. If anything was to be reduced to an object, it should be me…

The tradition of diplomacy has several guises. In this case, mine may have been met with the equivalent of recalling the ambassador. Rather rudely, I, the older wiser one, was silenced at the first opportunity.  Not only was my head literally cut off as an unthinking sacrificial offering, but it was then ceremoniously kicked around on the floor by Kali, the Hindu Goddess of an awful lot of things perhaps not fully comprehendible via the available media of Western philosophy.

Kali the Magnificent (carver: M. Boulogne)

Adding Insult to Injury
By the time it was conceded that such kicking had little choreographic (or ideological?) value, my belovéd noggin was covered in blue bruises from Kali’s body make-up.  I panting and battered, became banished backstage. The ladies were to perform their private ablutions and sacred dances beyond the eyes of men…

The Society for the Promotion of Human Rites pursues the potential for social revitalisation latent in the human gathering. If the good audience people join in the spirit of the meeting, the performers, armed with a few humble work elements, may be able to distill fresh understanding. Our journey relies heavily upon on poetic chance, our fiction is threadbare; we, and you, are really here…


About bembodavies

Theatre worker who long ago abandoned theatres, I remain adept at fabricating projects out of thin air. All proposals welcome.
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