brave, clever and fierce
Unsex Me | Review
Caroline Wake | RealTime Arts
Issue #120 Apr-May, 2014
PACT with Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival: MKA: Theatre of New Writing, Unsex Me, writer, performer Mark Wilson, costume Amaya Veceliio, PACT Centre for Emerging Artists, 19-22 Feb
The premise of Unsex Me is that a high profile performer, “the award-winning actress Mark Wilson,” is doing press for an upcoming film project—a collaboration between her father (an esteemed director), her partner (who plays Macbeth) and herself (as Lady Macbeth). Her prima ballerina mother presumably no longer performs.
Wilson enters down the aisle between the two seating banks, resplendent in ‘Vivienne Westwood’ tartans. She is smaller in real life than she is on screen, with a tiny waist and angular arms. Her skin is glowing, her hair is glossy and bold red lips offset her black beard. She lip-syncs one of Lady Macbeth’s monologues before perching on the couch for a hard-hitting interview on national television. Questions pre-approved by the publicist, and delivered by a voice piped in over the loudspeaker, range from “What’s it like working with your father?” to “How do you handle the pressure?” In response Wilson looks skyward or out to the audience and proceeds to trot out every platitude you’ve ever heard—“such an honour,” “great team,” “so much fun on set” and on it goes.
We’re ostensibly on a commercial break when the show starts to turn. Wilson invites a male audience member to join her on stage as her partner Guy. The spectator-now-performer sits anxiously in one corner of the couch, while Wilson fusses over him, stroking his face and eventually kissing him. The interviewer raises the issue of children and Wilson says sadly that it might not happen for them, that they are “reproductively incompatible,” but they are looking into adoption. Perhaps it is this that prompts the rage that erupts once the interview is over, as Wilson screams abuse at Guy who has little choice but to stand there and take it before he is banished from the stage.
Left to her own devices, Lady Wilson-Macbeth (a hyphenated surname seems only appropriate) inevitably seeks therapy. She changes out of her corseted, tartan robe and into a natty suit and pillbox hat. She stands at the microphone and recounts a dream in which she is Jackie. Like the interviewer, the therapist is also represented by an invisible male voice. There are daddy issues and, as she takes the microphone from its stand and starts to fondle it, it would seem they are pretty serious. What started as a demure confession rapidly devolves into messy, furious ecstasy. The clothes come off, the condoms and lubricant come out, and the microphone goes absolutely everywhere. One minute, Wilson-Macbeth is upside down on the couch with the microphone slapping the side of her face as she pants “oh daddy”; the next, she is naked on the couch bouncing up and down on the microphone. The scene is wild, unexpected, shocking and exhilarating.
It’s hard to wind down after this, but Unsex Me is perfectly paced. There is another costume change and then a dance number. The former recalls Carmen Miranda, the latter Eva Peron or rather Andrew Lloyd Webber’s version of her, as immortalised in Evita (the song is “Buenos Aires” and the line “Just a little touch of star quality”). Finally she leaves the stage and Wilson—for he seems to be himself now—returns carrying a bottle of water, an apple and a pile of notes. I am startled when he starts speaking in his normal, lower register, since his high, breathy and slightly smug tone had seemed so natural to me. Sitting on the couch once again, Wilson delivers an analysis of Macbeth that is both smart and sympathetic, managing to render a deeply familiar play strange. Structured with elegance and performed with exuberance, Unsex Me is brave, clever and fierce.