Writers: Karolien De Bleser, Charlotte De Bruyne, Aurélie Lannoy,
Marjan De Schutter, Anemone Valcke, Verona Verbakel
Director: Alexander Devriendt
Reviewer: G.D. Mills
In Sirens the all-female Belgian company Ontroerend Goed adopt a concert-style approach to launch a sustained attack on the inequality between the sexes. Unflinching and occasionally funny, there is nevertheless a nagging sense that this performance treads a well-worn path.
It begins humorously enough as the cast of six, attired impeccably in evening dress, perform increasingly comic warm up exercises prior to what we anticipate will be a melodious opening. When they do sing, however, it is a cacophonous baying, a monstrous howling that fills the auditorium. Thus is the opening salvo launched and an open declaration made: We women will not sing sweetly solely for your delight, nor shall we adhere to patriarchal convention.
Sirens, in the classical sense, they are not. When the noise does eventually subside into something sweeter, a pornographic film is projected onto the backdrop. In a grotesque parody of male behaviour they are, one by one, distracted from their professional purpose and drawn into the fantasy of the film. They begin to play with their imaginary penises and bring themselves to orgasm.
Bold, brazen, and brutally honest, the concert unfurls to deliver further truths. Patently unjust laws and social mores are declared, personal experiences are related, mostly with outrage, sometimes with sadness.
In a solo piece, a series of jokes are delivered in a rising crescendo of crudity. How can you tell if your wife is dead? The sex is the same but the washing-up doesn’t get done. Why does a woman have legs? Because if she didn’t she’d leave a slimy trail behind her. You get the idea and somewhere around this time an audience member storms out of the auditorium.
Sirens has been touring for a while now and it absolutely stormed the Edinburgh Festival in 2014, but there is a suspicion some of the freshness and vigour has been drained from it. Some of the lines are falteringly delivered, while others are too quiet to hear. Individual performances are strong and well delineated but occasionally group performances lack precision.
At around an hour long Sirens delivers a mostly shrill, feminist diatribe with little remission, but what do we learn that we don’t already know? Sirens may use new forms to state old truths, but there is a danger of it leaving half its audience reprimanded rather than enriched.
Runs until 3 June 2017 | Image: Contributed