Hyena asks us to defy the feminine. Romana Soutus employs cold roast chicken and prominent pubic hair in a visceral and provocative piece of performance. Like Chloe Khan, Big Brother's Enfant Terrible de jour seemingly defiant in the face of slut shamers, Romana wears her Louboutin's (red soles a homage to Paris's prostitutes) with pride.
Teeth bared, prostrate in a locked dog kennel as though transported from a Paula Rego painting, Romana Soutus is every woman's inner beast, a primal vessel full of blood and pain. Her prison is surrounded by those familiar societal constraints and patriarchies weapons, the iron and viciously high heeled shoes, In Women's Aggressive Fantasies: A Post-Jungian Exploration of Self-Hatred...By Sue Austin underlying self-policed female aggression is laid bare in terms such as attacking the housework. The audience must unlock her externally and internally, but before she is freed she describes how like Narcissus, while taking her flock to a pool three days in a row, she stares into the water only to find a hyena snarling back, the most cunning of female predators and carrion-eaters. As Romana whacks watermelon and cold chicken into her mouth, the slap reverberates around the tiny venue like an unwanted slap on the ass or face.
The seemingly semi-autobiographical stream-of-consciousness monologue strikingly leaps between performance styles, strutting and stimulating sex, and reenactment of a sexist verbal assault is juxtaposed with uncomfortable memories of childhood and self-harm (a symptom of unwanted physical attention), these conceptual soliloquies are often interjected with violent physical theater as flesh coloured food is savagely consumed. Engorged, Romana Soutus tempts the audience with a taste of strawberries or a sniff of her vagina; all the while a soundtrack is scolding and admonishing her like a spiteful subconscious.
Her vulnerability towards ex-lovers or the audience is consistently contradicted with violence, bruises and blood. Romana Soutus makes mincemeat of societal physical and psychological devices to make women feel they must be unsoiled, attractive, and controlled. It's these unmanageable expectations that make Big Brother's Stephanie Davis discharge stained knickers newsworthy, and Thinx, the period-proof underwear company, seeing their ad campaigns deemed unsuitable for display on New York's subway. As the Tampon Tax war still rages #bloodydisgrace, Romana's discourse on body fluids is essential.
As she ritually cleans the stage floor Romana Soutus gives us a pretty smile, but by the end of the performance it feels like she has eaten us alive. (LO)
Hyena is on at 21.40 at Paradise in The Vault (Venue 29) until August 28th. Wheelchair Access, Level Access, Wheelchair, Accessible Toilets, Suitability: 18+ (Guideline).
Reshma Saujani: Teach girls bravery, not perfection: https://www.ted.com/talks/reshma_saujani_teach_girls_bravery_not_perfection?language=en
To them, we are nothing but vessels: https://feministire.com/2014/08/17/to-them-we-are-nothing-but-vessels/
Feminist Performance Artists Face Jail Time: http://bust.com/arts/16274-these-feminist-performance-artists-are-facing-jail-time.html