MDLSX by Motus
Conceived and directed by Daniela Nicolò and Enrico Casagrande; dramaturgy by Daniela Nicolò and Silvia Calderoni; Sound by Enrico Casagrande in collaboration with Paolo Baldini and Damiano Bagli. Lighting and video by Alessio Spirli. Production by Elisa Bartolucci and Valentina Zangari. Distributed in Italy by Sandra Angelini. Tour Manager Lisa Gilardino. AC Arts Main Theatre. March 10-13. 2017. Adelaide Festival.
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins.
It is virtually impossible to remain impartial to Silvia Calderoni’s confronting investigation of gender identity in Italian company MOTUS’s , MDLSX. The experimental performance art production is inspired by Jeffrey Eugenides’ Pulitzer prize winning novel, Middlesex, which recounts the story of Caliope Stephanides, who is identified with a 5-alpha-reductase deficiency that causes him to have feminine traits, thus classifying him as androgynous. In a production that defies classification, Calderoni blurs the distinction between fiction and reality with a performance that is transfixing, mercurial in its confrontation, mind-bending and unsettling as she thrusts our consciousness startlingly into the experience of the hermaphrodite.
Calderoni enters on to a large symbolic golden triangle to the strident sounds of Punk. The head shakes in Dionysian possession as her hands furrow their way through her wild blonde hair. Behind her in a circle projected upon the left side of the wall, home videos record her girlhood and her changing identity.
To the right, supertitles flash the English translation of her Italian dialogue and list the twenty two tracks of music that accompany her journey from Indie rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Dresden Dolls’ Coin-Operated Boy and Talking Heads’ Road To Nowhere., charting the confusion of experience and the quest for identity.
At the rear of the stage, a long trestle table is laden with a DJ’s desk, a camera and assorted technical equipment, which Calderoni uses throughout her performance. A hand-held microphone is used more for effect than for projection, softly searching for affirmation of self, begging the questions, “What am I? Gay? Lesbian? Queer? Monster?” Throughout the performance, Calderoni confronts her own sexuality, turning the camera upon herself, turning her back to the audience to reveal herself through the video. Gradually she is revealed, naked, exposed and yet still searching for answers: Is she Apollonian, endowed with light and reason? Is she Dyonisian, possessed by the irrational, the force of darkness. In confusion she casts off her bra. In an act of self mockery she parades a sea of black material before her genitalia. She spreads out upon the golden triangle sporting a long mermaid’s tale, a mythological symbol of shape changing form.
I am assailed by imagery – a video chronicle of confronting the struggle of defining identity, asserting the authority of self and striving for a life of happiness in the understanding of what it is to be human, true to one’s gender, whatever that may be, he, she or they. Calderoni mesmerizes, an electrifying force of confrontation, challenging notions of humanity, illuminating preconception in order to debunk assumption and defy presumption of the norm.
MDLSX also defies our notion of theatrical convention.as powerfully as it challenges our attitudes. Calderoni drives the drama, offering a presentation, rather than enacting the theatre of gender identity. I leave the theatre, totally absorbed by Calderoni’s performance which dispels the very concept of the norm and compels acceptance of the essential human diversity.