production that explores themes of body positivity and female sexuality. Partly autobiographical, the piece spans three generations of women whose struggle to take ownership over their bodies bridges the gap between Eastern Europe and the UK. Co-created with BJ McNeill for No Offence Theatre, Things That Do Not C(o)unt is the second performance from the Polish-Australian company. Based in London, the group create work with a European influence and strive to place women at its centre, their most recent project taking to the Waterloo East Theatre as part of the Vault Festival 2018.
Forty-five shot glasses teeter on the edge of reality, with a string of pearls and a microphone snaking across the floor of the stage. A pair of acrylic cases stand tall, one hugging a cloudy pool and a lifeless silvery fish, the other packed tightly with a cornucopia of fresh grapefruits. A screen casts a shadow over two petit fours encased in Perspex. They are exhibited as if on display – never to be consumed, only to be admired from afar. Somers, dressed in a lavish red gown and with orange curlers peeking from her hairline, begins to peel a grapefruit restlessly. Shavings of citrus drop to the ground before she tears it in half mercilessly, its insides becoming a far-reaching explosion. Juice drips down her chin as she bites into its flesh, ruby-red nectar splashing over her feet in puddles of Vitamin C.
First, Somers’ speaks in her mother tongue, letting the Polish language sink into her story. A disembodied voice talks to her in English, asking invasive questions or making blunt statements. Memories of sexual encounters haunt the narrative as her character tries to decipher when it was that she stopped being a child, an omnipresent fear of not being good enough creating a sticky, guilty atmosphere. It is then that the hypnotic sweetness of a mini Victoria sponge begins to override the bitterness of weight loss, and so she dances between the shame of giving into pleasure and the righteousness of being without an appetite.
The consequences of her desires soon catch up with her, and in a fit of self-hatred she throws the yield to the floor. Pulp and fibre collide with flour and sugar, the debris creating a nauseating yet cathartic impression. Humorous tales of Polish winters are dispersed throughout elements of performance artistry, which provides comic relief from the intensity of Somers’ journey. At times, the use of audio-visual media added a roughness to the performance and was too loud, obscuring threads of dialogue as a result. However, Somers’ innovation surrounding the phenomenon of eating for enjoyment is an essential conversation for modern-day society. Things That Do Not C(o)unt is rich in potential and an inspiring tale of women bruised by womanhood – Na zdrowie!
Things That Do Not C(o)unt is playing at the Waterloo East Theatre until March 18th. For more information and tickets, see www.vaultfestival.com/whats-on/things-that-do-not-count/