Thursday, January 24, 2013

PuSh 2013: Look Mummy, I'm Dancing

Last night it was another intimate and exhilarating solo show at Club PuSh. Look Mummy, I'm Dancing is a stunning, emotionally raw monologue by Belgian actress Vanessa Van Durme that strips both the theatre experience and one's soul bare. Dressed only in a simple pink shift, Van Durme is alone on stage for 90 minutes: no background music of fancy lighting effects; a kitchen table and chairs, a glass of water, and two dolls--one male, the other female--her only props; the audience an uncertain witness to her story.

And what a story. Beginning with a casual, almost banal account of her frustration at being stuck behind a bickering couple in a supermarket checkout line, Van Durme dryly observes how much work it is to be a woman and, given the choice, who would willingly take up such a job? Van Durme did, and she proceeds to tell us about her life as a transgender person: from her difficult birth and boyhood joy at dressing up in her mother's clothes, to her courageous decision to undergo a risky sex change operation in Morocco in the 1970s and an unexpected 16-year marriage.

Van Durme's life is epic, and epically hilarious: a May-December romance with an American G.I. from Ohio; a catalogue of walk-on parts during her early career as an actor; waking up in a maternity ward following her sex change operation with the kindly nurse Fatimah telling her in Arabic that she has a lovely pussy; getting married in a Spanish prison. But at the heart of this piece is Van Durme's tender and heartfelt account of her relationship with her mother, who shielded her from her father's emotional abuse as a child, but who nevertheless feared and mourned the loss of the boy she loved as Van Durme grew into an adult woman--even as the once cold and distant patriarch welcomed a new daughter into the family.

It is Van Durme's willingness to explore with such honesty and openness the pathways and byways of family connection that cannot be explained by DNA or chromosomes that makes this such a rich and rewarding performance.

Look Mummy, I'm Dancing continues tonight and tomorrow night at Club PuSh. It is not to be missed.


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