Every friend I know who has seen Mouthpiece has ranked it amongst their top picks of the Fringe. So, go.
Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava have constructed a phenomenal performance piece in order to investigate and unpack the female psyche and female body. It is a piece of theatre that becomes more fertile each time you return to it, offering more to me each time I reconsider it – but this is the least of its many praises. Nostbakken and Sadava use beautiful a-capella harmonies, choreography and physical theatre so in sync that you’re left blinking in silent appreciation, and a searingly insightful text to construct their theatrical exploration. They both play Cassandra, a woman whose mother has recently died, and who is trying, desperately, to write her mother’s eulogy. But how, Cassandra asks, can anyone give voice to a woman, when she herself is spoken forth by society itself? Doesn’t the act of embodiment always produce an ambiguous lack, a split between the signifier and the signified? It is to this elasticity of language that Mouthpiece points, and the corporeal and vocal splitting of Cassandra into two women onstage is a physical symbol of this duplicity – of the simultaneously potentializing and reductive power of language. It really reminds me of the poet Denise Riley’s poem ‘Pythian’.
Even the decision to name their heroine Cassandra alludes to the intricacies of how women are socially, culturally and linguistically produced – and Mouthpiece is very aware of the position of privilege from which it speaks. At one point, Cassandra comments that “when I look at my own body, I imagine my eyes are his cameras’, inflecting the late John Berger’s comments on nude vs. naked women. Later, one-half of Cassandra reminds the other that she is a white, cis, heteronormative woman from Canada, who has received arts funding and whom all the audience have paid to see. It’s not fair, she says, when a woman speaks her mind and is beaten, raped, lynched for it. It’s not fair, she suggests, when a woman has learned how to self-construct as a woman in a man’s world, but at least she can rage against the injustice of this, and produce acts of protest and inquisition like Mouthpiece.
Mouthpiece is an extraordinary, intellectual investigation into femaleness and femininity. There’s not much more that can be said: it would be a deep injustice. The review itself, then, meta-linguistically reflects the inability of Cassandra’s mother’s eulogy to match up to the woman. Every friend I know who has seen Mouthpiece has ranked it amongst their top picks of the Fringe. So, go.