Boyname – a queer, trans artist – invited their audience on a metamorphic journey through mind and body in their show, Reconcile. The performance began in a smoky room, in which a gun and a stone appeared on a lone plinth. A masked figure in a red veil materialised through the haze, to perform a symbolic act of tragic vulnerability. Strobe lighting heightened the surreality as the music built to a gunshot crescendo.
Audience members were then led into a separate room, in which dizzying symmetry forced everyone to face each other across the stage, bearing witness to one another’s witnessing. Attendees watched with carefully neutral faces as the figure reappeared, accompanied by deafening discordance, convulsing and contorting in order to shed their grisly chrysalis. A grotesque pupa emerged, contorted and misshapen, skinning itself to reveal a more humanoid form.
Industrial sounds combined with insectoid buzzing to conjure uncomfortable imagery, taking the audience on an aural and visual journey through a macabre metamorphosis. Through the gradual revealing of self, Boyname was exposed, in every sense of the word. Frantically grasping at their own shed skin, the initially androgynous figure stripped down to ambiguous nakedness, eventually leading to full frontal nudity.
Boyname writhed around the stage, clutching at discarded body parts, bringing new meaning to the term ‘crawling out of one’s skin’.
Boyname appeared to exist alone in the realm of the stage, but was simultaneously conscious of the audience’s gaze throughout their physically and psychologically demanding performance. This contrast, combined with the catwalk-style stage design, cultivated sensations of voyeurism, with the audience privy to something deeply personal, and possibly forbidden, via the transference of resurrected qualia.
Alternating between light/dark, sound/silence and other binary opposites, the first half of the performance was particularly mesmerising, and culminated in the subversion of the mirrored self. Generous usage of smoke machines and lighting effects lent ominous emphasis to the sparse set and meaningful costume elements, both by Tia Tokic and Lauren Jane Salt. Peter McAvan’s dissonant sound design evoked intentional sensory discomfort, cleverly drawing the audience out of their own minds, and into the spectral imprint of another’s embodied experience, self-loathing and eventual acceptance. The entire performance, dramatically choreographed by Bobby Russell, refused to deny discomfort, embodying both positive and negative themes with courage and raw vulnerability.
Due to the intentional triggering of the human psyche through the deployment of intense sensorial activation, this performance was not suitable for the sensitivities and preferences of all people. A sensory and content guide was available to download, which did contain some spoilers in the interest of audience empowerment. However, it did fail to mention there would be a moment during which individual audience members would be physically taken by the hand, and led onto the stage by a naked performer to perform a symbolic act involving rose petals. It is worth noting that the performer was respectful of those who politely declined to engage, and that there was no coercion involved in the process.
Reconcile was avant garde performance art with autobiographical origins, in a category of its own creation. Feelings of gender dysphoria/euphoria were evoked alongside self-loathing/acceptance, before being cleverly transferred to the audience through collaborative acts of radical creativity.
Blue Room Theatre, WA
Creative Lead/Performer: Boyname
Producer: Samantha Martin
Choreographer: Bobby Russell
Composer: Peter McAvan
Set and Costume Designers: Tia Tokic, Lauren Jane Salt
Stage Manager: Ella Wakeman
Lighting Designer: George Ashford
Reconcile was performed 6-17 June 2023