Conversion therapy is still legal in the United Kingdom. In Mina, Nataly Lebouleux expresses this fact with persistent clarity in the hope of raising awareness for survivors of such dehumanising practices.
A box with glass panes sits centre stage, framed with two screens, upon which the words, ‘Heaven / On Earth,’ and, ‘Hell’s Dirty Little Drawer,’ are projected. Creative captioning means that every word hangs in the space. Lighting is stark. The soundscape is uncomfortable and consists of distorted throbbing, muffled voices and machinery whirring. Bass vibrates through the floor, shaking up the room. One is assaulted by an onslaught of sound which drives Mina’s interior state through to the spectator. The unearthly aesthetic construction of this piece is clinical and deeply unsettling.
This piece is uncompromisingly intense. We spin through seventeen-year-old Mina’s memory, and thus her trauma, in an emotional whirlpool of blurred images and stop-motion animation which depict scientific experimentation with religious undertones. The medicalisation of homosexuality in the context of its treatment radiates through Lebouleux’s disturbingly beautiful short film, Paper Thin, which plays throughout the performance. Coupled with the presence of a moving onstage body, this piece delves into how trauma permeates the mind’s present.
The use of the mask as an actualised societal mask is a little too on the nose for my taste, however it serves the symbolism well in conveying Mina’s inability to be her true self. Some of the movement sections run on for extensive periods which at times grow a little tedious, however the physical capabilities of the performer are captivating. Images of a body clad in white and contorted under cold lighting fuel huge sections of the piece. Our eyes flicker from the short film to the onstage action, each blending and flowing from the other. We perceive the deterioration of a person’s identity through persistent torture under the guise of treatment and hope. We never really learn to understand Mina as a person, but rather as a flow of the pain of memory in her medicalised deconstruction.
The religious imagery focuses on Christianity, however Lebouleux expresses her deep awareness of the many cultural practices which condemn queerness. A bright turquoise cross flickers on the screens and at times a soft, authoritative male voice whispers, ‘Lord, give me strength and guidance, that I may do things according to your will.’ This piece feeds into truths of trauma following Conversion Therapy without actively criticising religious organisations who persecute queer individuals. Lebouleux maintains an openness towards different persons without any essence of judgement, which is a perceptive approach to challenging such immoral practices. Therein lies a hugely emotional expression of widespread trauma without the overshadow of a political agenda.
This is an immersive, sensory experience which taps into the void of the mind wherein some of our darkest moments reside. This project has been constructed over the past four years in careful succession as the realm of film meets with the stage. Mina evokes the damage evangelical communities do to their queer minorities and how little language we have to express these experiences. The importance of this piece of experimental theatre is immeasurable.
Mina played the Camden People’s Theatre on 26 February. For more information, visit the Camden People’s Theatre website.