BATS Theatre, The Propeller Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

09/11/2017 - 25/11/2017

Production Details


New Zealand’s most provocative theatre makers re-write the script on female sexuality in Body Double. This 2017 STAB commission by co-creators Eleanor Bishop and Julia Croft debuts at BATS Theatre Wellington 9-25th November and will blend live projection, erotic literature, science, and the language of Hollywood film to revolutionise the way women see themselves in the digital age.

Body Double explores the complexities and multiplicities of female desire. Is it possible to carve a female sexual identity outside of pornography, past relationships and film? Performing as one another’s body doubles, Julia Croft (Power Ballad; If There’s Not Dancing at the Revolution, I’m Not Coming; Indian Ink) and Wellingtonian Karin McCracken (Jane Doe, It’s A Trial) enact memories, fantasies and inherited scripts in a collage of live performance and projection directed by Eleanor Bishop.

Having only just emerged triumphantly from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with their respective shows Power Ballad (Julia Croft – ***** The List and Total Theatre Emerging Artist Nominee) and Jane Doe (Eleanor Bishop – **** The Scotsman), it’s been a big year for the creators of Body Double, including working together for the first time on a feminist intervention of Foreskin’s Lament for Auckland Theatre Company. Both artists are committed to derailing oppressive vehicles of power as they relate to women, and are drawn to theatre as a place to create electric and transformative ways of doing so.

Praise for Jane Doe:
…flawless and powerful production. Low-key, intimate, with a thought-provoking script and a talented lead, Jane Doe is insightful, powerful and must not be missed NZ Herald

Praise for Power Ballad:
It’s a bold attempt to redress the male access to amplification, to remould vernacular into a linguistic form unviolated by gendered power structures. It’s also frequently funny and filled with an antic spirit. The Stage UK

Joining the team are US based Lucy Pope (set designer) and Kevin Ramser (media designer), who bring with them skills at the forefront of multimedia and performance integration. 

Heather Carroll, Programme Manager at BATS Theatre is proud to support this new show:
“The purpose of STAB is to provide an exciting opportunity for artists to create a bold, new original work that pushes the boundaries of theatre making in New Zealand. I am particularly excited by this year’s commission, Body Double, as I believe Eleanor and Julia are making some of the most contemporary, relevant and provocative work seen on New Zealand stages in recent times.” 

STAB 2017 was commissioned by BATS Theatre and received initial funding through Creative New Zealand

Body Double plays
BATS Theatre Propeller Stage, 1 Kent Tce
09 Nov – 25 Nov 2017
Tickets: $19 – $25
Bookings: or (04) 802 4175 

Performance: Julia Croft and Karin McCracken
Text: Eleanor Bishop, Julia Croft and Karin McCracken
Direction: Eleanor Bishop
Media Design: Kevin Ramser
Set and Costume Design: Lucy Pope
Sound Design: Te Aihe Butler
Lighting Design: Marcus McShane
Production Management: Vicki Cooksley
Scenography & Media Intern: Kasey Collins

Theatre ,

Richly provocative

Review by John Smythe 17th Nov 2017

It’s coincidental that, timing-wise, Body Double plays in counterpoint to the #MeToo campaign, which went global just last month; #ThisAlso may be its appropriate hashtag. As an exploration of female sexuality it reclaims ownership of the heterosexual ‘female desire’ script in all its complexities and multiplicities (as the media release puts it). It takes back the power in a realm where the male voice and gaze has been predominant.

Created with director Eleanor Bishop and presented by Julia Croft and Karin McCracken, two extremely personable, generous, wise, witty, jaw-droppingly honest and brave performers, backed up by a high-quality creative and technical team, Body Double is a deeply engaging show.  

It’s not a play, as such, although it is certainly playful in its creative mix of direct address, performance, text both classical and original-cum-autobiographical, set and costume design (Lucy Pope), projections, live screening, image-mixing (media design by Kevin Ramser), sound design (Te Aihe Butler), lighting design (Marcus McShane) and metatheatrical segues that remind us we’re in a theatre watching performers whose relationship with each other is an essential part of the overall dynamics.

Despite their bookending the show with a splendid live rendition of Carly Simon’s 1972 hit, ‘You’re So Vain’ (you probably think this song is about you), it’s impossible not to respond subjectively to each component, either relating it to our own innermost secrets and life experiences or opening ourselves to a greater understanding of things we may never have thought, felt, done or observed. That’s what makes it so compelling as a live theatre experience.

Full disclosure: I wrestled with the existential conundrums of sexual desire (I copulate therefore I am) during the so-called Sexual Revolution. Our quest to shake off the conservative shackles of sexual guilt and embrace ‘freedom’ was fed by such texts as The Karma Sutra, The Hindu Art of Love, The Joy of Sex, Forum magazine and Nancy Friday’s The Perfumed Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies.

The latter especially made us aware that fantasy and reality were not to be confused with each other; that the surprising predominance of rape fantasies arose from women needing to feel blameless (sexual guilt still lurked) despite being the all-powerful creators of those fantasies. The photographic pornography that subjugated women to the male gaze was likewise not to be not to be confused with ‘reality’, although men were less likely to get that point.

These days the prevalence of moving image pornography, and the likelihood of its being a primary source of sex education for young people wrestling with their urges, tends toward documentary rather than fiction, making it much more difficult to separate fantasy from reality. And it’s heavily weighted in favour of the male orgasm being the end goal; of the woman’s role being to service the male.

The Body Double media release therefore asks: “Is it possible to carve a female sexual identity outside of pornography, past relationships and film?” The online blurb asks, “Is it possible to re-write the sexual scripts we’ve been taught? Can we move past looking and dive headfirst into feeling?”

The title, Body Double, is explained in the strapline: “I am having sex. I am seeing myself have sex.” It also relates to the device of Julia and Karin embodying each other’s narrated stories. But given such lines as, “an endless moving want that has nothing to do with you,” it may or may not relate to two bodies being involved in the act of sex. (Actually the “endless moving want” may relate to the unconscious but insistent biological imperative to procreate which – correct me if I’m wrong – is never otherwise acknowledged as part of our sexual drive.)

Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina – regarded by his (male) peers and those who came after as “a pinnacle of realist fiction” – looms large as a seminal text. Given the reader (McCracken initially) is clad in a white fur-trimmed diaphanous gown, I assume this is an example of the sort of ‘script’ they want to rewrite. As excerpts are read, Croft emulates the protagonists live on screen.  

Film clips also reference Titanic (to which Croft confesses, in this interview, she is addicted) – and later we are treated to a cinematic collage of female orgasms, overlaid with McCracken, in extreme close-up, attempting to emulate the ecstasy. But rather than celebrate cinema’s apparent affirmation of female orgasm, the highly amusing ending of this sequence suggests a point is being made about the phenomenon of the fake orgasm. Which of course we are because it’s acting. But does it really represent female experience or a male fantasy of how it happens?

Mostly, in the original-cum-autobiographical sequences at least, we are in the realm of failed relationships and unsatisfactory (‘swipe right’) casual sex. Romantic and sexual fantasies are juxtaposed with evocations of actual experiences, largely related on a ‘no fault’ basis. These women are in control and take responsibility for their own actions even when they lead to less than satisfactory experiences. It’s up to us to evaluate our own actions in such scenarios, and judge whether or not we, or others, should be brought to account.

Oh, and you will never look at a ready-to-roast chicken the same way again.

Anyone hoping to come away from Body Double with a list of goods and bads, and rights and wrongs, about female sexuality will be disappointed because the overriding ‘message’ is that the fantasy realm is rich with imagery and ‘behaviours’ you’d never contemplate in reality, and that negotiating sexual experiences in reality is a minefield – more ‘mine’ than ‘yours’ or ‘ours’, perhaps, the way this show explores it.

Billed as “a series of vignettes” it doesn’t have a classic three-act structure (which is arguably a male construct anyway) but comparing the Anna Karenina romantic material at the start with the startling sexual fantasies shared at the end, with unabashed candour and glee, certainly gives us a sense of how far we have come (so to speak). Again it is up to us to evaluate what represents progress or otherwise.

There is no doubt, however, that Body Double is a richly provocative example of contemporary theatre practice and a worthy addition to the BATS/STAB* lexicon.
 – – – – – – – – – – –
*“BATS’ annual STAB production showcases theatrical innovation in all its many forms. It’s a rare chance for artists to be given the financial resource required to realise something ambitious, experimental or unusual. With support from Creative New Zealand we’re able to offer them a chance to take a stab at a new idea and give Wellington audiences the chance to see something they’ve never seen before.”


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Stop-start nature undermines Body

Review by Ewen Coleman 14th Nov 2017

When the contents of a play elicits a strong response from an audience and questions that audiences perceptions on issues, particularly when they are as personal as desire and sex, it has a lot going for it. 

And although Body Double, this year’s STAB production at Bats Theatre, still requires a lot of work to make it an effective piece of theatre, the ideas and issues raised by the creative team of Julia Croft, Karin McCracken and Eleanor Bishop are very thought-provoking. 

Not only is the title a clever play on words, where the two actors, Croft and McCracken, complement each other, doubling up with words and actions, but the innovative set totally in white, including the costumes, underlines the innocence and purity that is about to get torn asunder. [More


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Ambitious, complex, subversive, compelling sensory discussion

Review by Zoe Joblin 11th Nov 2017

Disclaimer: Body Double has been crafted to evoke a strong response from its audiences. The content triggers (in the broadest sense of the word) the viewer to reflect on their own relationship with sexuality which is invariably diverse. For this reason I have written a subjective response.

Karen McCracken and Julia Croft perform in Body Double which they created with director Eleanor Bishop. They flip between sharing their own, very intimate, stories and the public narratives which frame the ‘oh so rigid’ conventions of gender and sexuality. At the beginning of the show, the performers explain the idea behind the title Body Double as the ‘Academic Concept’ of leaving your body during sex. Over 90 minutes the performers act as each other’s ‘Body Double’. Julia reads a story written by Karen; one person is the voice while the other is the body as they re-enact scenes from famous books and movies over and over again.

The combination of a formidable media design (Kevin Ramser) and nimbly woven sound and lighting (Te Aihe Butler and Marcus McShane) used to create these re-enactments provokes a compelling sensory discussion of Desire and Pain. However there are times when these elements could be held more lightly so that the proverbial clitoris doesn’t become numb through lack of variation. 

My favourite parts of the play are when the choreographed mishmash of sensations is pleasurable for the empath in me. I can feel when Julia delivers a strange and sensual massage to an unlikely body; when the earth beneath Karen deflates; when Julia dances wildly while delivering her slam-poem-of-a-violent-fantasy. Alongside the relief found in these moments which make me laugh and tingle are the soft gestures, caring words and honest interactions between the two performers. I love the breathing space they eventually find in the last scene as they appear to relax after the destruction they have explored, and are allowed to be soft and tired together. 

The overall sense I get from the show is one of desperation. I hear, see and feel that Desire is a shameful thing; a violent thing. It makes me sad that as much as they scream that “it is not about you”, a lot of the shame/desire centres on the male gaze and the disconnection of mind and body that comes from objectification no matter how good it may feel. This reductive perspective leaves a lot of people out of the conversation as there is so much more to sexuality than that crushing trap.

The complex themes of sexual violence and ‘attractiveness’ that exert themselves more towards the end of the show bring up questions of intersectional feminism but still hit home the idea that patriarchal ownership of sexuality doesn’t serve anyone of us. I would love to see some of the kinkier themes in Body Double explored even more abstractly and freely; to really “move past looking and dive headfirst into feeling”.

Body Double was commissioned by BATS Theatre for the 2017 STAB season. The production’s ambitious storytelling, complex design and subversive content fulfil the intention of the STAB programmes to evolve theatre practise in New Zealand.


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