Wait For It
There's no getting around it: there are times when Chaos Factory’s “Kiss Kiss Slap Slap” makes for some frustratingly tough going. And not in the good ‘take you out of your comfort zone’ sort of tough going. A celebration of #metoo, “Kiss Kiss Slap Slap,” performed by Danielle Galligan, Fionnuala Gygax, and Venetia Bowe, derives much of its strength from the issues it addresses. Yet the manner in which it portrays those issues can leave a little to be desired at times.
Devised by Galligan, Gygax, and Bowe, along with producer Rachel Bergin, “Kiss Kiss Slap Slap” trades in male stereotypes that risk reducing its interrogation to ‘all women are victims and all men are potential rapists.’ From big, broad, bearded builders, leering and lecherous, to vagina obsessed kimono rappers, or tirades of seedy chat-up lines, the debauched male is nothing if not dangerous. A permanent and potential threat, like the Michael Myers figure sitting silent and still in the background. It risks appearing juvenile, overwrought, and under thought, as all this has been said before, and said better.
But wait for it.
For there’s something else going here. Glimpses of a lively, visual intelligence continually shining through, looking to find expression, which place the women at the centre of the experience.
An initially clever linking of Chaos Theory and The Butterfly Effect to a single hashtag post that blossomed into a protest establishes a strong foundation. But this soon gives way to a series of less than stellar segments, looking like low budget music videos played in quick succession. Something Ellen Kirk’s clinical set design, along with Kirk and Dara Ó’Cairbre’s AV Design reinforce, not so much fracturing the experience so much as compartmentalising it. A scattergun approach that highlights, often in unimaginative ways, some of the unimaginable abuses suffered by women in the hope that history might stop repeating itself.
Yet even during such segments, such as a lacklustre auction, powerful images emerge. Like women carrying mattresses, and themselves, around on their backs. Or the pained and dead expressions buried beneath thick lipsticked grimaces as Charlie Chaplin’s Smile is sung. Slowly, images begin to accumulate. Visuals that become grounded deeper in the body, crescendoing into a collective scream followed by silence. As if everything up till now, the tearing off of skin, the hiding of the body beneath layers and layers of clothes, was leading up to this. This finding of a voice, individual and shared, with which to say this far and no further.
For a performance steeped in the body, “Kiss Kiss Slap Slap” often spends far too much time in its own head. Yet once it speaks directly to those lived experiences in their raw, unprocessed states, “Kiss Kiss Slap Slap” can be, at times, heartbreakingly potent. Like the fledgling Chaos Factory, “Kiss Kiss Slap Slap” might not be the finished article. But there’s an undeniable power trying to come through. Yes, it can be hard work at times, but “Kiss Kiss Slap Slap” is a timely reminder that beyond the hashtag lie real women with real experiences, who are proud, pained, and protesting.
“Kiss Kiss Slap Slap” by Chaos Factory, runs at Smock Alley Theatre as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2018 until September 15.
For more information, visit Smock Alley Theatre or Dublin Fringe Festival 2018