Boobs. Selina Jenkins.
The Quartet Bar. Adelaide Cabaret Bar Adelaide Festival Centre, June 18-20 2021.
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
As Selina Jenkins took her bow at the end of her highly personal and deeply thought-provoking show about body image, gender and the right to determine control of one’s choices, I kept thinking that Jenkins’s sensitively presented performance should be shown to students in senior schools. This is the time that many are struggling with gender identity, sexuality and their place in the world. It is a time of confusion and frustration as well as hope and dreams and the need to be oneself.
Jenkins provides a voice that is reasoned, empathetic and encouraging, born of her desire to have elective surgery to remove her breasts. Boobs is her account of the journey she took to realize her dream, and the problems she had to overcome to achieve her goal. Alone on stage, Jenkins regales her experience with self-effacing humour, superb singing with guitar accompaniment that surprises with its range and control, and an easy, honest engagement with her audience. The show is structured on the absorbing account of her time in Florida where she went to have the surgery, because nobody would do it in Australia. A conversation with the voiceover of the surgeon responsible for signing off on the operation reveals the inability of the surgeon to grasp the fact that Jenkins merely wanted to remove her breasts with no desire to transition to a male gender. The absurdity of the male prerogative to decide to grant permission on the basis of liking a person strips away Jenkins’s autonomy to decide for herself how she will control the choices she makes about what ro do with her body.
Jenkins is fortunate. She has the love and support of her sisgender, and partner Amy who travelled with her to Florida where the metaphorical hurricane of going through the procedure of securing permission was matched by the Category 3 hurricane that struck their hotel. Jenkins’s captivating ability as a storyteller and comedian comes to the fore as she describes the hunt for the missing nipple. Her timing is excellent as she segues with simple ease from anecdote to song to the concluding moral of her one hour performance. “Lead with your heart” Jenkins tells the audience. “Remember that other people are as vulnerable and they have an important story to tell”
Finally in a plea for understanding and compassion, Jenkins reminds her audience that “your resistance can ruin ours” It is a cry for unity and tolerance. With humour, song and honest storytelling, Selina Jenkins sings a song of experience that echoes through the heart and opens the mind.