[Image credit: Irregular Arts]
I’m a big fan of cake, cabarets and feminism, and ‘An Odd Occasion’ (which it most certainly was) was a perfect combination of all three. Clutching my vagina cupcake in one hand and a glass of cava in the other,
I proudly pinned my ‘prick tease’ badge to my chest and was ushered by the dazzling Mysti Valentine into her lady garden.
As everyone took their seats, I took a quick peek at the other audience members – from 7 months to 7 decades, men, women, friends, couples of all sorts were milling about the room… It looked to be a pretty diverse evening.
The show was hosted by an array of (literally) sparkling characters, embodied by Jenny Wilson, all of whom had very clear opinions on what it means to be a woman (I imagine Glinda the Good Witch and Hilary Duvet the Trucker would have had quite a debate were they to share the stage). Both likeable and relatable, the ladies held nothing back as they gossiped, chatted and raged with the audience, and language I probably can’t include here were flowed freely. As impressive as her ability to switch between personae was Wilson’s skill at meandering through the labyrinth of scattered coffee tables and stilettos in outlandish outfits.
As a girl whose life motto is ‘never buy a pair of shoes you can’t run for a bus in’, her expertise in astoundingly high platforms was phenomenal.
She was supported by ‘Barb’ (performed by Alison Andrews): a suit-clad, chair-dancing spokesperson for ‘dead feminists’ including Maya Angelou and Miss Moneypenny, who took great delight in taking her tape measure to the men in the audience (it wasn’t what you might think – she was measuring their ‘manspreading’: the distance between their knees). Often the ‘straight’ side of the duo, reading poetry and hosting the feminism pub quiz, Barb had some excellent comedy moments of her own. Between them, the pair (or rather, team) expertly managed to balance glamour, comedy and some serious club moves with important issues such as ‘age appropriate’ behaviour, being a woman in a male-dominated workplace and self-image.
This project was not entirely the offspring of these two ladies, but the end product of a collaborative effort including the online community (have a look at the blog), academic research (from Dr Leanne Lawson at the University of Edinburgh) and other artists. This variety of input added enormously to the eclectic feel of the whole evening, with quotes from an online questionnaire adding a sobering voice of realism lest we get too wrapped up in the glitz of it all.
Designed to be fully participatory, we were invited to put questions, thoughts and comments in Mysti’s ‘slot’ or just shout out as we felt; however the audience seemed a little shy (possibly blinded by Mysti and her friends’ exuberance). In the spirit of involvement, two sign language interpreters took part – and learning that the sign for Beyoncé is the Single Ladies ‘put a ring on it’ handshake topped off my night nicely.
Both giggle-inducing and thought-provoking, this is certainly ‘An Odd Occasion’ not to be missed.