BY KATHRYN PIERCE
In collaboration with @SomewhereEDI
A surreal and queer box of delights that packs a punch and challenges you not be shocked – I still was.
I was really looking forward to experiencing Autin Dance Theatre’s Queer Words opening night at Greenside Infirmary Street. What I encountered was a diverse and daring depiction of LGBTQ+ lives, performed by an all-LGBTQ+ cast of dancers, poets and physical theatre
My Queer Words experience, and it is an experience, was a fierce 45 minutes spent
with 80 others in the Forest Theatre. The production was a series of spoken word, drama and comedy sketches interlinked with music backdrops and dance segments which offers social comment and challenging ideas of gender stereotyping, toxic masculinity and sexual expression.
Amongst the offerings was a dance and spoken word segment where the three leads
(BETHANY SLINN, JOSHUA TOFT-WILD, OLIVER SALE) gave us a powerful commentary on
how each of their LGBTQ+ sexualities are described by others, in a mainly derogatory way,
and by themselves – “loud”, “roaring”, “normal”. This was followed by a quick lesson in the
“queer alphabet” because “If we’re having a conversation, we need to speak the same
language”, inviting us and enabling us to tune in to their wavelength.
The performers also tackle and reclaim insults, and instigate interaction with the audience – as someone who has personal history of having “Dyke” shouted at me as an insult, it
felt awkward and difficult to shout it out loud.
Different accents, styles and pitches interspersed with song and physical movement made for a very corporeal performance and one which shifted between expressive forms very readily. It was quite anarchic and explicit at times, turning a mirror on the audience and asking them direct graphic questions – which I bizarrely found myself answering – before moving swiftly into scenes of spoken word melded into dance sequences portraying hook-ups of all sexualities, finally linking into character work parodying educators’ attempts to teach inclusivity.
Club scenes capture the gay male gaze with thumping basslines segue into explicit poetry
about gay male sexual encounters. Vogueing dance shapes are carried with monologues
from the three leads, each expressing themselves and their sexuality through movement.
Elements of the show also reminded me of a theatre of the absurd piece I once saw where
the performers self-rewind and repeat traces across the stage, as if looped in time.
I particularly enjoyed the dance sequence with OLIVER SALE and JOSHUA TOFT-WILD which was a graceful depiction of loneliness and vulnerability which comes from reaching out for intimacy from strangers, longing for a deeper connection. The strength and contortion of the two male dancers was impressive and it occurred to me I had never necessarily seen two male performers dance in such a beautiful and intimate style before.
The show is an unusual sensory experience and I certainly came away appreciating far more that sometimes the best way to express the most important things is through physicality alone.