Sitting on the steeply banked, hard wooden benches of the former Edinburgh vet school’s anatomy lecture theatre – designed in such a way that every student should get a good view of the gore and guts on show – we are treated to a dissection of Julia Croft’s body. Rather than sheets of skin, connective tissue, muscle and organs being gradually pared away to reveal the skeleton underneath, Croft sheds layer upon layer of clothes until we arrive at her starkly naked flesh.
Named from a quote by Russian writer, feminist and anarchist Emma Goldman, the show starts with Croft absurdly bundled into multiple costumes, each one removed in a lightning quick change to reveal the next. Pens, paper, gin and tonic, and even a McDonald’s burger and chips are produced from within the folds of cloth, as crudely imitated scenes from famous films – including Titanic, Psycho and Basic Instinct – serve to highlight the female form dissected by the camera’s gaze (or, more gruesomely, by a murder weapon). She dances, flirts with us, eats the burger with transgressive abandon and later experiences a joyous orgasm punctuated by confetti cannons. As a finale to this anatomical dissection, she scrawls lines around her breasts, genitals and buttock, in imitation of the guidelines of a plastic surgeon preparing to carve beauty into the female form.
According to the handout provided at the end of the show, Croft made this show because “violence against women is everywhere in many forms. This does not happen in a vacuum. These violent actions come out of a cultural context… I am fascinated by how we look. How we look at women. How women are often reduced to bodies. How looking is a political act.” In the final scene, we are forced to gaze at Croft’s nude body for far longer than feels comfortable before the lights finally go out. Balancing the weight of all her discarded costumes on her head, face obscured, we are made to look, made to stare. This passive act is a potent reversal of power that feels intrusive, forced and almost violent, which is – I suspect – entirely the point. (KA)
If There’s Not Dancing At The Revolution, I’m Not Coming is at Summerhall at 12.05pm until August 28th (not 22nd). Level Access - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/if-there-s-not-dancing-at-the-revolution-i-m-not-coming
On Julia Croft: http://www.juliacroft.com/
On Emma Goldman: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_Goldman
More about feminist film theory: http://www.feministezine.com/feminist/film/Feminist-Film-Theory.html
The male gaze and its impact on gender portrayals in the media: http://projectcensored.org/male-gaze-and-its-impact-on-gender-portrayals-in-media/