Taiwan Season: Tomato

Tomatoes erotic? Yes, erotic, silly, surreal, constantly surprising, Tomato, a physical theatre piece by dancer/choreographer Chou Kuan-Jou is brilliant. Witty, original, exquisitely crafted and it may initially leave you hot under the collar. Much nudity and explicit content – this is not for under 16s. However, part performance and part live camera documenting the event, it soon becomes clear this is a multi-faceted, clever critique of sexuality with a feminist perspective.

You will never look at tomatoes in the same way again.

A cage full of tomatoes sits on stage and one is at first afraid they may end up being thrown at the audience. But fear not. It is the cast (two males and one female) who will indulge in a tomato fight, but that is to jump ahead. At first we are given a lecture by Tseng Zito, a commanding performance, on how to choose the best tomato: its weight, its shape, firmness etc while this is filmed by an androgynous person (Ne Chi Wai) in a hooded white plastic boiler suit. When the lecturer starts to peel the tomato, Chou Kuan-Jou in flimsy pink slip gyrates to a Billie Holliday track – the usual ‘he done me wrong’ victim theme. Her back to us, Chou hugs herself, her hands appearing around her shoulders as if being embraced. Pulling her slip over her head, there’s a shocking revelation: a tomato held between her legs. Even more shocking, when you know in Taiwan a tomato cut open symbolises the vagina, its juiciness, red like blood.

A fest of sensuality ensues where the cast revel in the smell, the taste and the soft but firm feel like a baby’s skin of a tomato as they stroke one over their whole bodies. Sexuality is portrayed, not through the male gaze, reducing women to objects or victims nor to the sado-masochism of porn, but sexuality as sensuality where not only the female is liberated but the male lecturer is ecstatic discovering a new pleasure. The androgenous character now strips off the boilersuit he has been hiding in, to own his own – possibly gay – sexuality. This is a bold, brave piece and huge fun. You will never look at tomatoes in the same way again.

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Reviews by Stephanie Green

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Since you’re here…

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Performances

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The Blurb

Created by the gifted young dancer-choreographer Chou Kuan-Jou for herself and two other performers, not to mention a few ripe and shapely red fruit, Tomato is a cultural experience both playful and provocative. Lust and desire take centre stage in a canny, capricious combination of live performance and live camera documentation. This enticingly tasty work is an absurdly funny expression of Chou's ongoing interest in gender issues from a feminist perspective. Here private manifestations of sexuality receive a rib-tickling public spin. Ideal fare, then, for anyone curious about seriously tongue-in-cheek, cross-art form exploration.

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