Performance review: The Cadela Força Trilogy – Chapter 1, RISING Festival, Malthouse

A graphic and disturbing look at violence against women.
Close up of four women sitting in a car at night; they are lit from inside the car.

Content warning: this review contains mention of femicide, rape, sexual assault and murder.

This is a work that desperately needed to be seen by Australia, or at least by a certain cohort. It was a bleak, extraordinary performance that dealt with violence against woman and rape.

In the opening scenes of The Cadela Força Trilogy – Chapter 1: The Bride and Goodnight Cinderella, Brazilian performer Carolina Bianchi consumed a date rape drug known in her homeland as “Goodnight Cinderella”. It was washed down with vodka and soda, in a glass garnished with a cocktail umbrella. As she self-administered the drug, she also began to read from pages of research she has undertaken into femicide.

The work was inspired by the killing of 33-year-old Italian performance artist, Pippa Bacca, murdered by a driver when hitchhiking from Italy to Israel. Through the work Bianchi interrogated the intersections of Bacca’s whiteness and naivete, of art and of safety.

When the effects of “Goodnight Cinderella” finally hit, the unnerving energy and urgency of this performance and its message came simmering to the surface. It was the first of the production’s many pivots and at breakneck speed too.

The next scene introduced the ensemble with the pouring of tequila over Bianchi’s body and the smell of alcohol that permeated from their bodies, amplified by sweat. This olfactory jolt to the senses managed to dissolve the fourth wall instantly.

This fevered party scene was like the first layer of Dante’s Inferno, referenced continually in the work as inspiration, with each layer thereafter darker and darker still.

Over the course of the next two and half hours, Bianchi‘s body was carried, dragged and placed across the stage. It was here that the ensemble took centre stage. In the closing scenes Bianchi was penetrated by a camera, the inside of her projected onto large screens that hung above the performance space. 

While Bacca’s murder provided inspiration for the work, passages of The Cadela Força Trilogy – Chapter 1 also detailed how, in 2010, Brazilian football player ​​Bruno Fernandes de Souza organised the murder of his girlfriend, actress and model Eliza Samudio. After she was killed, her body was dismembered and fed to de Souza’s dogs.

The staging was brilliant, with the lowering of a large white backdrop and black plastic drop sheets unfurled to cover the entire performance space. Centre stage was a car. Over the course of the performance, the women in the ensemble found themselves behind the wheel, while their male performance partners were outside looking in. The filming and projection of these later passages spoke directly to the male gaze and of the apparent difference in power dynamics. 

At just under three hours with no intermission, this piece was a marathon, a wild ride to the depths of hell. But, of course, the level of endurance needed by its audience paled in comparison to the lived experiences of Bacca, Samudio and many, many other women.

Read: Theatre review: Punk Rock, Clubhouse Theatre, Townsville

This swirling cacophony of stories was deeply impacting and will remain etched in the mind of this reviewer. 

The Cadela Força Trilogy – Chapter 1: The Bride and Goodnight Cinderella was performed at the Malthouse on 13-15 June 2024 as part of RISING Festival.

Jessi Ryan (they/them) has been creating performance and exhibitions for the past 20 years, both locally, nationally and abroad- in this time collaborating with a huge number of artists from a broad cross section of cultural backgrounds. As a journalist they have written for and been published by some of Australia’s leading arts and news editorial across the last 10 years-and was recognised as a finalist for Globe Community Media Award in 2021. Ryan has also taken photos for a number of print and online publications.