Angel-Monster is a visceral challenge, exploring the eclectic female experience. On entering the venue, five female dancers immediately engage with audience members. I am posed the question ‘What is the most beautiful thing about a woman?’ The breakdown of the separation between performer and audience creates an instant connection between the two.
The performers call attention to their bodies, posing on the floor clutching at their buttocks, fingers pointing out from their breasts making weapons of their nipples. Wearing skin tone high-waisted knickers and bras, their untied hair swings powerfully with no restriction as the soundtrack rings out “I am adaptable, who do you want me to be?” Within the Assembly Checkpoint venue, we can watch the piece from two sides with a stage that thrusts out from a corner of the room, highlighting the sense that the performers are being viewed.
Pink translucent egg sacs hang from the ceiling, which the women unzip to release an array of clothing; the beautiful moment of birth underscored by the calming sound of waves. They tie the clothing to their bodies in abstract ways that begin to constrict their movement. We are asked to assist in their emancipation, helping the women remove the ill-placed clothing.
A woman is pushed into a corner of the performance space, returning only to be thrown back. Falling onto the floor she rolls at the feet of her oppressor trying to break free. Another enters a circle of clothes and into an array of sex positions. She shifts facial expressions between Barbie-style deadpan and maniacal enjoyment. The piece attacks the topics of consent and violence with full conviction. A thought clouds over a dancer’s face – she must shave her legs! Accompanied by a brutal shiver-inducing scratching sound, the performers rip at their bodies in a crazed desire to rid themselves of any body hair. Their frustration signalling the impossibility of such a task and the ridiculousness of conventional beauty expectations.
Nerida Matthaei’s choreography forms striking tableaus throughout. In a balletic movement, the angelic outline of a vagina is created using arms and hands, but we are also presented with a nightmarish monster formed of a screaming head pulling along stocking suffocated heads, chained together by strings of clothing. Women take ownership of exactly how they wish to be presented.
Standing alone, each performer flails their arms randomly whilst a mechanical soundtrack whirrs and clunks. The image concurrently presents the dancers at the whim of external forces but also steering the ship of their own bodies. A routine of screaming faces followed by hands forming hearts, laughter and fear is juxtaposed, creating an unnerving environment for the audience that keeps you on edge, unsure how you should feel, or even how you do feel from one moment to the next.
The women stand in a line extending their arms outwards. Over time the motion becomes more punctuated and aggressive, with punches being thrown in unison, eyes focussed ahead as we endure the routine for a gut-wrenchingly long period. Four of the performers cease, exhausted, while one continues their onslaught, fighting alone. The others try to calm her, but the violence goes on until they try again and end up in an emotionally supportive embrace. The performance is incredibly high energy and the dancers’ physical strength points to women’s limitless abilities. The intensity of Phluxus2 Dance Collective’s piece forms an impressive act of purging one’s emotions, where the performers’ strength and vulnerability successfully enable an audience member to experience this catharsis vicariously.
Choreography by: Nerida Matthaei
Lighting Design by: Keith Clark
Sound Design by: Andrew Mills
Set Design and Construction by: Nerida Matthaei and Rozina Suliman, in collaboration with
Produced by: Cluster Arts and Phluxus2 Dance Collective
Angel Monster played as part of EdFringe 2022. Further information can be found on the company’s website here.