WOMEN

What Is the City But the People?

Manchester

Madchester

Womanchester

It has a good few names. Quite succinctly it is goosebumps. A frisson of fashion and fascination. Shudders of connectors and receptors. Born from changes and hormones.

Piccadilly Gardens grew a limb for MIF's opening ceremony. It was strong, white yellow and black, a suspended scaffolded catwalk bookended with gargantuan screens. Forcing us to face elevated people of hairs and muscles we wouldn't necessarily notice but need. 

Outcasts can find homes here and be heard. Happiness happens. Ageing graffiti is persistent proof on decayed tooth buildings. In love longing and loss, the people present made the same marks of defiance and delighted in difference. 

The community of Manchester is multicultural, multidimensional and multi-layered. Overhead city birds flew through bringing beats of Graham Massey, familiar yet distant and path-promising. The music drove the spirit. Instrumental expressions inspired individuality in absolute purity. Each person offered a preserved presence and prominent pride. Some were meditative and mindful. Moving with the same precision, simplicity, honesty and dignity of a Japanese Tea Ceremony. 

This misplaced MIF limb shone an examination light on the pulse of Manchester, linking lives and the humbling cure of courage people can bring. That's how the city sings its sounds. They echo against minimalist movement in a microcosm magnified. 

We are all blood cells moving through concrete capillaries, veins and arteries. The buildings house pains and electric brains. Without our power our city's complexion would wither to the wan of winter.  There would be no ideas. A computer not operated, not invented even.

We consider a baby's first breath. Nature and inherent beauty. A mother's love and another mother's duty.

Beautifully beaming brothers burst out. One romancing with adrenaline fuelled break-dancing. We all feel it. It happens again. We smile. We are related in bird skin. We rub our arms but we are not cold. In that collective moment we're reminding each other of our fragile mortality through silent screened stories and broken open emotion. Undoubtedly, those of us who were not elevated, were raised in other ways.  

A counterbalance of contemplation and cognition came curling round cogs of memory, giving mind to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. A medical tool based in subjectivity and judgement, stuck in me from my nursing history. The individuals we saw seemed to present in Maslow’s self-actualisation. It gave a great faith for fruitful futures in friendship. We surely shouldn't take our time or significant others for granted. That is a given. Each moment is a gift into learning about ourselves and others. Promoting our purpose. But entrenched medical models are archaic and here in Manchester we face forward. Or at least we try to. 

Ahead on my own path I look to a person lying on the floor. Amongst bags and cans and covers. Somewhere else on the scale of self-actualisation. I judge. I do not want to but I do. I've already assigned him a gender. I wonder about this life story. How he see's the city. How he saw the runway? I imagine his goosebumps are from other places. I hand him some money from a guilt-lined purse. 

- Clare McNulty

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Womanchester Poem - Ella Otomewo

Why Do We Get Goosebumps?

808 State – Pacific State

Baby Delivered Inside Amniotic Sac Takes First Breath

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Simply Psychology

DROPPED / Gobsmacked Theatre Company

DROPPED / Gobsmacked Theatre Company

It’s an irony as old as time. Women may be seen as fit subjects for every conceivable violence, but they are not suitable for fight in war. From recent conflicts in Iraq, Afganistan and elsewhere, women's roles in the armed forces seem to extend little past the 2D. Physical, mental, societal violence is fit and fair game. But for a woman to fight in times of conflict has, until very recently, been seen as a frightening or morally disgusting transgression.  

TRAVESTY / Fight in the Dog

TRAVESTY / Fight in the Dog

Travesty is a play dealing with transitions. From one state of life to the next. Between innocence and ageing masquerading as experience. From a romantic relationships move from cradle to grave. From early 20s insouciance to the creeping fear that this might be all you’ve got. From dissatisfaction to, well, what exactly?

SHARP EDGES / Amelia Sweetland

SHARP EDGES / Amelia Sweetland

Sharp Edges (written and performed by Amelia Sweetland) is an intense exploration of female mental illness. Filmed sequences and voiceover showing Sophie at home are used to break up a series of sessions Sophie has with the therapist her GP sends her to when she complains of insomnia. Slowly, Sophie's past and Sophie herself start to unravel.

OSCAR / Vertebra Theatre

OSCAR / Vertebra Theatre

Two young queer girls meet in a nightclub and bond over a copy of Oscar Wilde's De Profundis. When tragedy interrupts their burgeoning romance, only Oscar can provide comfort. This new puppet and dance-based piece by Vertebra Theatre (makers of the acclaimed Dark Matter) explores “queer identities and first love” through “visual imageries, garbage film, devised text and dance.”

JOAN / Milk Presents

JOAN / Milk Presents

In ‘Mind, Modernity and Madness’, Liah Greenfeld writes that “A widely held idea (say, that hell awaits those who eat flesh on Fridays, or that all men are created equal) is no less a reality for people in the community holding the idea than the Atlantic Ocean”. Her bracingly forthright sociological study goes on to dismiss those who “diagnose entire cultures as psychotic...retroactively pronounce medieval saints schizophrenics”. 

CAMILLE / Kamila Klamut

CAMILLE / Kamila Klamut

History has painted Camille Claudin as 'Rodin's tragic lover' - a muse-turned-artist-turned-asylum patient, desperate and alone. But although her 10 year love affair with the master of French sculpture has defined her, she's increasingly recognised as an artist in her own right: the 70th anniversary of her death was marked with asignificant retrospective of her work at the Rodin Museum.

THE INTERFERENCE / Pepperdine University (USA)

THE INTERFERENCE / Pepperdine University (USA)

A series of high-profile cases has drawn attention to the idea that a ‘rape culture’ exists in American colleges - a micro-climate where sexually predatory behaviour is both normalised, and enabled by social codes around masculinity. And one, too, where victims are either disbelieved or blamed. Cork-based playwright Lynda Radley’s latest play is a 360 degree view of a female student Karen’s experience of reporting a campus rape, and seeking justice. But unlike most reporting on campus rapes, it takes her perspective, showing the serious mental health impact of her experiences while her college football star rapist Smith emerges unscathed.

AND THE ROPE STILL TUGGING HER FEET / Caroline Burns Cooke

AND THE ROPE STILL TUGGING HER FEET / Caroline Burns Cooke

Abortion is still illegal in Ireland, as it was during 1984 when the Kerry Babies scandal raged forth from the intertwined powers of church and state. It was a cruel culmination of a logic that imposes shame on women’s bodies, on their sexual activity whilst excusing men, and on their ability to choose to not follow through with an unwanted pregnancy. For all the difference between then and now, on the day that I saw And the Rope Still Tugging Her Feet, #TwoWomenTravel was trending.

LIFTED / Triad Pictures

LIFTED / Triad Pictures

The recent terror attacks in France and Belgium, have assured that Islamophobia is on the rise but it’s Fife that proves the culture battleground for Lifted. Ikram Gilani plays drug dealing secular Scottish Muslim Anwar with humor and intensity and the small hot stage at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall makes the audience genuinely feel part of Anwar's interrogation by invisible forces at Glenrothes Police Station.

MAKING MONSTERS / The Golden Fire Theatre Company

MAKING MONSTERS / The Golden Fire Theatre Company

The sexism that Mary Shelley experienced while trying to write literary classic Frankenstein is unfortunately still an immediate and modern concern as literary award shortlists continue to be male dominated. Making Monsters does its best to explore the feminist context surrounding the creation of this psychologically gripping, and essentially modern landmark text.

BLUSH / Snuff Box Theatre

BLUSH / Snuff Box Theatre

The raw emotions on display in Blush are the primal responses to those whose lives have been detrimentally affected by pornography. Five candid stories address porn addiction, revenge porn, seeking approval and validation through porn, and as the characters and voices change, it’s apparent they are all defined by exposure to porn.

TWO MAN SHOW / RashDash

TWO MAN SHOW / RashDash

There is a crisis in masculinity. Men can no longer be bearded, belching monsters, retreating to their man-caves at the merest whiff of emotion. Women are in charge now, and men now have to stop solving problems with their fists. They have talk to each other. They have to have feelings, damn it.

HYENA / Romana Soutus

HYENA / Romana Soutus

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.

DECLARATION / Sarah Emmott & Art With Heart

DECLARATION / Sarah Emmott & Art With Heart

Declaration draws on Sarah Emmott’s experiences and (late) diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Developed with medical professionals, ADHD and mental health support groups, the piece begins with a highly energetic and comedic tone. Emmott shares childhood stories of embracing her then-undiagnosed self-defined “weirdness” within a supportive family context.

TORCH / Flipping the Bird

TORCH / Flipping the Bird

The setting for Torch is a narrow one: its narrator has locked herself in a toilet cubicle at a nightclub, unable to summon the confidence to storm the dancefloor despite plenty of shots and a snort of coke. Within its confines, she journeys across her past, reflecting on the relationships and sexual experiences that shaped and eroded her sense of self.