Writers and performers: Tamsin Shasha and Maisy Taylor
Reviewer: Peter Jacobs
Commissioned for The Lowry’s Week 53 Festival – their biannual festival for ‘the compulsively curious’, now in its second year – Everything I See I Swallow explores a mother-daughter relationship focusing on sexuality, ‘coming of age’, and using aerial rope and Japanese Shibari – ancient and erotic rope bondage.
This show is the first proper collaboration between Tamsin Shasha – an experienced performer, director, writer, aerialist and Artistic Director of Actors of Dionysus (aod) – and Maisy Taylor – a professionally-trained circus artist specialising in aerial rope with an interesting sideline in strip clubs and underground cabaret – although the pair have been aware of one another for some time.
The interests they share, those they didn’t that intrigued and the difference in their ages has produced a fertile ground on which to build something exploratory and different. Presented intimately and informally in the round in The Lowry’s dock – a working space they seem only to utilise for public performance and social events at Week 53 – the show has the pleasing feel of an installation or event for a select few.
Combining text, music and sound, aerial rope and Shibari, the show has the two-person perspective of a mother-daughter relationship in a vaguely linear structure, with the drama shifting from dialogue to aerial work in a way that explores ideas and emotion more powerfully and imaginatively than drama alone could perhaps achieve.
The basic premise is that a mother (Shasha) – educated, feminist, someone who has done their utmost to raise a daughter who is independent, empowered and safe – discovers that her daughter (Taylor) is an Instagram ‘star’ with thousands of followers and galleries of photos of her naked, Shibari-tied and suspended.
What the show manages to achieve with its dual perspective, strewn heaps of feminist books on women’s sexuality and the female body, sound design (by Matt Eaton), dialogue and two strong and compelling performers, is to open a complex dialogue on the nature and ownership of the female body and the shifting landscape of feminism. It is hard not to start to consider some of the current debates on gender and identity politics, although the material barely touches on it. Anchored by the relationship between the pair, the show tenderly navigates the shifting sands between two women viewing female sexuality, agency and age from two different towers of certainty.
Rope somehow enables the pair to traverse, negotiate and resolve those different standpoints using tension, conflict, tenderness and cooperation. It is a cleverly-constructed show that is questioning and exploratory rather than didactic and polemic. The aerial rope work is beautifully choreographed and Shasha and Taylor match and complement one another intriguingly. The Shibari rope work – the show also considers the nature and meaning of surrender and control, touching on BDSM – is unexpectedly intriguing, sculptural and delicate – tenderly brutal.
Everything I See I Swallow is a fascinating and surprising examination of ideas and emotions that are as simple as they are complex, which shift meaning and focus as they are viewed through different lenses. This feels like a show that would be perceived differently based on the age, gender and sexuality of the viewer. This is a show that seems to resolve some of the issues it touches on but leaves the audience with a complex matrix of feelings and ideas to work through – knots that may be simple or impossible to untie. Knots that may give pleasure and reassurance, that may leave traces.
Runs until 26 May | Image: Contributed