brilliantly written and astonishingly courageously performed
Unsex Me | Review
20 Feb, 2014
When Foucault argues that the history of sexuality has not been one of a linear narrative in getting closer to the proposed mystery, but rather a complex cycle of entanglement perpetually distorted by politics, science and the church, the modern thinker is given yet another way to approach the equally mysterious character of Lady Macbeth. Hers is a constantly moving narrative, a character whose entire nature can be transformed by popular intellectual fads of the day. She has been written in a mercurial fashion, so that her behaviours and responses from perfect associations with completely conflicting ideologies and theories. Like the feminine stereotype she screams to debunk with her “unsex me” cry, she becomes as impossible an archetype, a woman who can’t exist, seeming to be perpetually at odd with all the multitudinous versions of who she is. With her call to remove the physical attributes of femininity, she makes a claim that the meanings we attach to objects – even the objectified anatomy – make our whole (hole) a grotesquely created giant far larger than the sum of its parts.
In a superb piece of Foucault-driven, brilliant, deconstructed narrative, the enormously talented Mark Wilson brings a completely manufactured Lady Macbeth to a contemporary stage. His Lady Macbeth isn’t just at war with her own feminine mythology, she is at war with every trope and association of gender wether it be built from our disproportionate adulation of unworthy celebrities, or our regicidal passion for our fathers. Mark Wilson collapses the maligned nature of sexuality itself into the distorted images we have of the “three sexes”, the woman, the man and that strange creature (according to Foucault, built by an attempt at “rational” science) the homosexual. Once upon a time, the story goes, these three disparate incarnations didn’t have to be named. It was not repression that formed the delineation of sexuality but a clinical, cool impossibly (ir)rational conversation that categorised, organised and homogenized sexuality so that it is watered down to a series of comforting signs, recognisable by dresses, ties and pink triangles.
Mark Wilson’s Lady Macbeth is not just a cry, but a scream from a wilderness that beats with rabid fists against the iron bars of sexual conformity and categorisation. Lady MacBeth doesn’t just call out against the meanings of her menstrual flow and her flourishing womb, she also attacks her husband’s inability to perform the empty gestures of masculinity, calling him a coward in the process. Her femininity will create his masculinity – she knows this and she hates it, just as she threatens to beat the child such prisons of definition produce. When a bearded Mark Wilson relates the childlessness of a gay couple to the childlessness of an infertile heterosexual couple, we see Lady Macbeth’s claim to beat the brains of her child, forged from the appropriation of stereotypes that also kill her (and her husband) in a whole new light. Who wants to keep bringing children into the world if this is their roots and destiny? Surely the birth of a child from a gay couple is, then the most important of medical quests?
All of this and more is packed into the brilliantly written and astonishingly courageously performed Unsex Me. For the thinking audience participant, Unsex Me is the kind of theatre meat we live for, unashamedly visceral, spectacularly cerebral and relentlessly fearless. So much is packed into a small hour, that fortunately PACT Theatre thought to bring to Sydney, and yet all this power is wrapped up in a darkly comic, deeply disturbing wit that rubs up seductively against Wilson’s overt genderless charm. At its surface, and sometimes all we want is a little surface, it’s a combination drag comedy, slutted up with some OTT expressions of self-love. But beneath its surface lies an intelligent voice whose valiant yawp brings a new vision to the obsessively analysed Lady Macbeth. Wilson uses theatre and one of its greatest characters to encapsulate his vicious commentary on the plastered stereotypes of society and the result is a fine piece of theatre tears at the very fabric of our sexual definitions and identifications.