-by Coleman Grehan
(Photo credit: Erica Hurrell)
Tue & Fri March 18 & 21
Smith’s Alternative is turned into a theatre for two nights to welcome the Canberra premiere of Unsex Me. Presented by MKA: Theatre of New Writing and written by Mark Wilson, Unsex Me is a controversial post-dramatic theatre work that will either have you laughing on the edge of your seat or walking out halfway into the show.
Wilson is not only the playwright of Unsex Me, but also plays the role of “award-winning actress Mark Wilson” in this one(wo)man show. This bearded beauty discusses the life of a celebrity, her passion for acting and her new role: Lady Macbeth in her father’s upcoming rendition of the Scottish play.
If Shakespeare and RuPaul had a love child, Unsex Me’s opening would be it. Wilson begins the show with a well-polished lip sync to one of Lady Macbeth’s monologues. She does this while wearing an enormous get-up designed by Amaya Vecellio that combines high fashion with Scottish traditional wear. The show goes meta-theatrical when Wilson is thanked for performing and sits down to chat about her career.
If you’re a man, there’s an chance that you might be asked to join Wilson onstage to play her boyfriend ‘Guy’. The man sitting beside me was a little timid as he was selected. While it is amusing to see the interaction that might play out between these two characters as they emulate a domestic relationship on the fictional setting of “National TV,” it is unclear what we are truly laughing at. Are we laughing because they’re both men, or because the ‘female’ character is more dominant, or are we laughing because this poor guy is put on the spot?
Wilson does an excellent job of portraying the award-winning actress, however, it’s questionable whether Wilson’s work raises its laughs from socio-political satire or from the shock factor of all the things that could happen when a bearded man plays a woman. Masculine traits demonstrated in Wilson’s character are turned into punch-lines which arguably reinforce the gender stereotypes of how women should be.
The show’s epilogue is juxtaposed against the contemporary drag act that takes place before it. Lines between Wilson, the actor and playwright, Wilson, the award-winning actress, and Lady Macbeth are blurred in a dense commentary on philosophy, art theory, suicide and more.
This production is marketed to 18+ audiences only, and that’s something that should be actively followed. From the basics of striptease and nudity, to crude humour, to an elongated and simulated sex scene between Wilson and a microphone; Unsex Me is not something for children – or the faint-hearted.
Coleman Grehan is a freelance theatre artist and music composer currently residing in Canberra, Australia. Born in Singapore and raised in Brisbane, he graduated from Queensland Academy for Creative Industries in 2012 and recently graduated from an internship with Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre in 2013. He currently is studying a Bachelor of International Relations/Bachelor of Arts at Australian National University. Coleman is currently devising a butoh/live-art piece entitled “HIM” to take up to Brisbane as part of Anywhere Theatre Festival 2014.