Edinburgh Review: Sanitise, Underbelly Cowgate

sanitiseSanitise throws a lot of things sharply into focus, namely, our highly gendered expectations of flawlessness and sexuality.

Directed by Caitlin Skinner, Sanitise is a nod to the pressure women are under to be pristine at all times. Like the way she rigorously cleans her bathroom, creator Melanie Jordan plucks at herself frantically. When she looks at herself in the mirror, she scrutinizes herself. Her face grows judgmental eyes like acne. The projections on her shower curtain depicting the intensifying body dismorphia many women experience when feeling less than perfect.

It says a lot about the way we police women’s behaviour, appearance and choices at all times, especially regarding sexuality. Sanitise treats ‘dirty’ both literally and figuratively, but inextricably tied to the sexual. When Jordan expresses herself sexually, in a ‘dirty’ way, she is subject to harrowing hallucinations of vitriolic slut shaming in a tirade of drooling men and horrified faces. It suggests the ways in which we allow women to be sexual are, whilst seemingly quite liberated, in fact very restrictive: at one point Jordan totters around in impossibly high heels and a tight corset.

Throughout, we become increasingly aware of an imposing force that Jordan attempts to overthrow every time her eyes dart naughtily towards the filthy cupboard beneath the bath, festering with mould. It is similar to the force that tells women that they can’t be sexual beings in the way that they want to. The fact that Jordan is silent throughout can’t be an accident. She is voiceless. Powerless.

With a mechanical score and clinically white set, this solo show is visually impressive as well as thematically disturbing. Jordan’s expressions are larger than life, her exaggerated movements contributing brilliantly to an already fantastic show. Expertly choreographed, funny and chilling, Sanitise is entertaining and thought-provoking.

What is perhaps most unsettling about Sanitise is that whilst Jordan is undeniably hilarious, it’s almost normal for a woman to be as neurotic as she is about the state of her bathroom. We laugh. We don’t see the madness for what it is.

Sanitise plays at Underbelly Cowgate until 24 August 2014 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. For more information and tickets, visit the EdFringe website.