Community Gallery, 20 Princes St, Dunedin

15/03/2015 - 16/03/2015

Auckland Arts Festival 2015

Production Details

Are You Game? is a provocative performance based on Emma Feather Shaw’s (Director) experience of being sexually assaulted at a Dunedin party five years ago.

The piece harnesses contemporary dance and monologue to explore the theme of sexual assault and blurred lines of consent.

The performance was created by using theatre, dance and the devising process as safe, educative and therapeutic spaces in which participating parties could engage in positive erotic discourse. The work-shopping process and performances aim to promote healthy, safe, fun and consensual sexual interactions.

WARNING: This performance contains partial nudity, offensive language and provocative subject matter that may be triggering for some audience members.”

Community Gallery, 20 Princes St, Dunedin
Sun 15 Mar & Mon 16 Mar
Price $8.50

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Theatre , Dance-theatre ,

Cathartic for some, frustrating for others

Review by Tania Robinson 16th Mar 2015

As part of a full, frenetic and so far highly impressive Dunedin Fringe Festival experience, I found myself at the Dunedin Community Gallery last night for Are You Game?. Although in the Theatre section, Are You Game? would probably be best described as a dance piece for people who might not ‘get’ dance, and find it helpful to hear some words to describe the action taking place onstage. That’s not because the dancers aren’t skilful; they appear to be a mixture of people for whom dance may or may not be their primary activity, but they all move very well. I think the question of genre isn’t especially important to the young company (Feral Grace) who devised the piece.

There are six actor/dancers onstage as the director introduces the show and invites us to discuss it over a cuppa at its conclusion. I only know this is Emma Feather Shaw because Dunedin is a small town; unfortunately, there is no program. (For that matter, the toilets in the space are locked, most likely because of no-one – Fringe or Feral Grace – being willing or able to stump up for toilet paper!)

There are a couple of rows of seats arranged on either side of a long-ish aisle, which is a good shape for the viewing of the dancers, who are often performing versions of the same sorts of movements, either as singles or pairs. 

The content of the piece is an examination of unwanted sexual connection. The word rape is not shied away from, but it’s just one of the terms used. This might not (sadly) be an uncommon experience for most young women, and is probably even more common for those who may be found under the influence, even though getting shit-faced is everyone’s right. It’s the unfortunate legacy of all the places in the world where people are brought up to be uncomfortable with their bodies and the awesome, myriad treasures bodies have in store, especially if one is awake.

Getting trollied and having a shag has led to lots of long-term relationships, and even to the formation of families. But it can also be very troubling to those who might not have been wanting it to happen that way. Learning not to drink too much might just be the most helpful thing parents could teach their children. But that’s another article /rant /dance. 

The piece starts with a young man entering the audience and coming close to (but not actually) stroking and fondling a few of us, of whatever gender. I know he doesn’t only pick people who are known to him. He is soon joined onstage by the others, who pair off into two hetero and one lesbian couple. Despite the fluidity of duos and group interactions, I don’t recall the two male dancers pairing off with each other at any point. But that’s a red herring. 

All the participants speak at times, sometimes on top of each other, sometimes simultaneously. There are lots of good opportunities to enjoy what dancers’ bodies can do, and how beautiful they are; this is, pretty much, what I like (and, I suspect, we all like) about dance. 

What I especially enjoy about Are You Game?, despite the fact that the individual ‘segments’ are a tad long, is the overall, palpable joy of sex (and physical affection) that is clearly still expressed. The young dancer /actors spend a lot of time cuddled up, seemingly loving the contact they have with each other. The text even talks about the kind of ‘friends with benefits’ situation they calmly and casually might have been in. That makes the feelings of violation even sadder, somehow. 

Even though, at times, Are You Game? is clearly expressing the experiences of the very young and those just-beginning-to-make-sense-of experience, that isn’t inherently a bad thing. A few people I speak to say that they’ve enjoyed the piece and found it “cathartic”. Others say they find it frustrating that it hasn’t offered any real comment on, or resolution to, the feelings it might have provoked. Instead, there are lots of pamphlets with the phone numbers of the various resources one might need to access if any distress had arisen. 

There is definitely a feeling of being witness to some kind of ‘dance therapy’, and the director’s tearfulness at the end makes that even clearer. Luckily however, there definitely is a place for such an approach within a Fringe Festival.


Emma Feather Shaw March 21st, 2015

Kia ora Tania,

Thank you very much for your review.

A few points I wish to make in response to your review.
1. The toilets were fully operational (with ample toilet paper) on both nights of the show, I think perhaps they were locked when you went to go due to them being occupied.

2. "Learning not to drink too much might just be the most helpful thing parents could teach their children. But that's another article /rant /dance." - Yes it is another article / rant /dance as we in no way support victim blaming in any way. We in no way condone excessive drinking but it is important to note that it does not matter how intoxicated a person is - consent is still required.

3.  "Despite the fluidity of duos and group interactions, I don't recall the two male dancers pairing off with each other at any point. But that's a red herring." The pairings were not intended to be read into as couples, rather as them playing the same character. In terms of acknowledgement of male homosexual encounters – during the end monologues one male does use the personal pronoun "he" to talk of being assaulted by a male, after leading him on with flirtatious tickle-fighting. (The other male cast member uses "she" in order to show once again that females can also be perpetrators of sexual assault and that males can be victims.)

Thank you again for your review,

Emma Feather Shaw
Director - Are You Game?

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