Body Shop is a multiplayer, multi-layered human body action game, a future-forward competition where women are assembled according to the stories of their bodies. The stories focus on five main body sections: the hair, eyes, breasts, womb and vagina. The writing is phenomenal. Exploring the complex nature of womanhood, we hear intimate stories of having a child, breast cancer and trans identity.
These performers are blessed with eloquence, grace, humour and the ability to connect with us.
These five women share stories ranging from objectification to sexual experience and expression, fetish, bias and taboo. They speak from the perspectives of a young person; a first generation millennial; kinky; trans; femme and mothers. They speak as human beings, human beings who’ve experienced a world of damaging media and social stigma as well as love and acceptance, with partners, friends or family.
The stories are extremely personal but they do not feel voyeuristic. The audience is invited in, it is a space for sharing. Some of the actors appear shy, even uncomfortable – but this honest depiction of how they feel is also endearing. We trust that they are them and they do not put on airs. The staging is simple and effective. The performers individually stand, sit and stand again, creating a gentle repetition of motion like the ebb and flow of a tide.
The show is framed by the concept of gaming, a competition to assemble a whole woman by assembling her pieces. Unfortunately, the skeleton doesn’t support the organs. The narrator is reasonably effective as a white skinned, blue eyed, blond haired, female overlord, detailing the rules of the game and documenting progress. However, the cheesy pinwheel array of lights and gamer music is out of place. The tech does not provide a fitting contrast with the play because it is not woven into the narratives of the womens' stories. The movement of the women turning on to play the game is confusing at the beginning, especially because the movement motif is never repeated to suggest other gaming features. The outfits also do not support a gaming aesthetic – the gentle clash of tan under cloth and red and orange items look thrown together, and lacks impact. As the “players” wait, they stand behind the monologuing actor. They adopt a neutral position that looks awkward. Their eyes wander around the space. This doesn’t support the framework or content of the show.
While more thought should be given to the framework of the piece, the content is gritty and grounded. These performers are blessed with eloquence, grace, humour and the ability to connect with us. Many would say it’s brave to share such stories but their demeanour does not display fear. They are not afraid to share, many seem eager, hungry for the catharsis and acceptance of honesty. Their openness, candour and self-love is a gift beyond words. As you leave, perhaps whisper “thank you” – thank you for being complex people who have shared your stories and shared yourselves. Thank you.