★★★★ ‘a powerful and empowering piece of work’ The Scotsman
Comprising a series of unconventional and interconnected fragments, A Spectacle of Herself is at once daring, dynamic, and disruptive. Characterised by an innovative approach to, and engagement with, technology - particularly video projection - Laura Murphy uses both the solar system and systems of power as lenses through which to celebrate queerness and to consider new ways of being a woman in the world and on stage.
Using elements of autobiography, Murphy draws from the day-to-day dangers she faces as a consequence of her sex and sexuality (physical violence, verbal abuse, repression), in addition to her lived experience of autism. Pushing against - and sometimes parodying - 'pioneering male thinkers’ past and present, Murphy combines critical theory and creative practice to create a kind of cerebral circus. Blending physical theatre, clowning, and stunning displays of aerial rope, each vignette verges on wildness, and yet - under Ursula Martinez’s careful direction - the action is deftly controlled.
There are exceptions throughout (notably, a moment of weird karaoke), outliers that, while charming, remain strange, even estranged from the rest of the performance as it accrues and takes shape. Short silences between scenes - not unlike ‘rests’ in a piece of sheet music - are also odd at first, risking room for disengagement, but cumulatively these spaces gather gravity and meaning.
Its political savvy, seen together with themes of physical and emotional nakedness, makes A Spectacle of Herself incredibly sexy. As Murphy invites her audience to queer the status quo, unlearn Patriarchy, and destigmatise the female form, she does so with great sway and sophistication, resulting in a powerful and empowering piece of work.
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