04/05/2023 - 05/05/2023
Alexa Wilson - Creator
Tessa Mitchell - Co-producer
Calvin Hudson - Lighting Design
Produced by Alexa Wilson
Q Theatre 4th – 5th May
Part dance, part song, part embodied ted talk, part cyberpunk, part performance art, part possession, ALIEN embraces the body as foreign to self and others, often alienated inside change.
Experimental dance , Dance ,
Confronts the veritable reality of what it is to be a body, in the here and now, collectively, on our big blue planet of existence
Review by Kate Bartlett 06th May 2023
It is indisputable that the performing body is still up for dissection of its palatable attributes. In part due to the everydayness of the patriarchal male gaze and concurrently the still embedded perceptions of what the ideal performing body is and should be doing. As artists we ask ourselves often – who are we to put our body, alone, in front of people, inviting them to watch us? Alexa has decades of expertise in progressively performing the self or selves through disrupting the norm-core expectations of virtuosic dance. Alexa’s Alien continues her legacy of reimagining what the potentialities of dance are. Alien is deeply layered in its beautiful rawness. It’s real, it’s unapologetic and steeped in visceral moments of exquisite clarity.
In Alien, Alexa is her body. In Alien, Alexa’s body is presenting honesty. As it writhes, as it sways, as it protests and whips at the ways in which we position the changing, ageing body as an alien in this world of filtered realities and digitised (de)connection. Alexa tells us in her rap-like-song text that her body is inside the precipice of change. A change that at 35 doctor’s will suddenly, without warning, announce is now a geriatric uterus with fast diminishing orbs of family making potential. Alien subverts the dominant narratives of our body as solely a vehicle to produce a family, highlighting the vulnerability inherent in the perimenopausal experience while refusing to be defined by these expectations. Particularly when a choice has been made or made for us to unmother.
Alien is presented hypnotically through the contrasting modalities of text, movement, film, and the delightfully accumulative deconstruction of the audience as a passive observer. Alexa has conceived a work that is rich in visual symbolism. In one instance the filmic use of lightbulbs as a metaphor for uterine eggs accentuates the ephemeral nature of fertility and the inevitability of ageing. As Alexa gathers these egg-bulbs against her pelvis, grappling to keep them close and contained – she reminds us that like our body, lightbulbs are ideas, lightbulbs are fragile, lightbulbs fizzle out. However, I am struck with the unsteady thought that lightbulbs can be replaced, whereas we can not. Themes on the state of being are effectively steeped throughout the work, drawing us in to consider our relationship to the present environment. A world in which weather extremes are no longer on our doorstep, but are in our homes sweeping us off our feet as we grapple with a future that feels beyond our control. A future that exists as a result of our frenzied hunger to consume, unconsciously fueling the sentient machine of capitalism.
Alexa is masterful in how she becomes the architect of her performance space, objects are served, arranged, and rearranged as she converses intimately with each piece of stuff. Night Lunch’s seminal track ‘House Full of Shit’ is the perfect accompaniment to Alexa’s poised presentation and then destruction of her carefully placed things. As she sweeps the room to the line “What are we going to do with all this shit” we laugh, stirred by the poignancy and catharsis of this moment. There’s comedy throughout this performance, moments to come up for air before diving back into the dark waters with a lion’s roar. Alexa’s moving body cuts through Q Theatre’s Loft space with ease, encased in Calvin Hudson’s mindful lighting design.The beams of low-lying purple light catch a large table, throwing UFO like shadows onto the white backdrop. This table is important, it is a stage, an interview site, and a clinic’s bed which draws out memories of sterile feet stirrups, sweaty palms and cold metal contraptions. On this table is a large piece of silver material that Alexa is in dialogue with throughout Alien. It becomes a new flesh, a piece of shifting whenua, undulating and folding around her as she morphs through different bodies.
“This is me as a healing body”
“This is me as an economic body”
There’s something self-therapising and deeply relatable about this section – our body contains and emits multitudes in its relational proximity to the self, to others and to our world. We’re not alone, Alexa reminds us of this.
In a controlled burst of unafraid physicality Alexa begins a ritual of literal whipping with a long chain of empowerment. The piercing crack energises our consciousness, tugging at my own fear of the whip’s tail being in such close proximity to our flesh, to Alexa’s flesh, to our human suit. This work invites fear in, it allows for us to sit in the muck of it. It is a welcomed pardon to be afraid, because we are. As Alexa asks the volunteer interviewees “Do you believe that extraterrestrial life exists?” I cross my fingers and think I hope that they come down and save us.
This work demands our attention. It is a performance that is simultaneously haunting, captivating and empowering. Alexa invites us to take a journey with her, one that is unarguably vulnerable yet ultimately, liberating. Alien is a performance work for our times, there is no escapism here. Instead it confronts the veritable reality of what it is to be a body, in the here and now, collectively, on our big blue planet of existence. It needs to be said that we are lucky to have Alexa Wilson home, making and performing her important, unique voice, on the shores of Aotearoa. If the season hadn’t wrapped I would urge you, implore you to go.
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