All meat and no bone with Meatology

Performers of "Meatology" interrogate the stereotypical behaviour inherited by Cisgenders. Photo: supplied/NAF

Many a theater production can evoke uncomfortable emotions in their audience. Whether the message is personal, social, political – theater is a powerful tool which has been used to bring awareness to the public.

However, this can get out of hand, and Meatology is no exception to those shows which leave you wishing you had spent your time elsewhere. Shock value can be effective when it is used to provide a particular perspective, but it just seemed like they were trying to generate controversy.

When I walked into the theater, I was perturbed. Sure, there was a woman singing and momentarily screaming in the corner, and another lying naked on a table wrapped in plastic – and that made me uncomfortable. But the thing that really got to me was the way they interacted with me as a member of the audience. Firstly, we were shouted at that we were not to sit down. Then some of us were handed the other end of strings which were tied to the woman lying on the table – and when she had finally broken free from the plastic, we were expected to tug on her as she stood in front of us. Naked. Weeping. Absolutely terrified.

It was genuinely as if they were trying to smack their message into me. The introduction was by far the most excessive part of the entire production, but the rest of it was disrupted because of that. As much as the entire point of involving the audience in their introduction was a means to show us that we are part of the problem, it didn’t achieve that. Instead of feeling like I should change my viewpoint on the issues that were being pointed out, I felt like a victim of theater that was trying too hard to make a noise.

The audience interaction only progressively got worse throughout the show. After a couple of scenes where different performers would run down the aisle flinging a whip around – almost hitting a couple of people – there was a scene towards the end where a character has a breakdown and starts physically shaking people in the audience. I am still not sure whether or not the people who were part of this were part of the performance itself, but it made me fear that a strange man would come up to me and touch me without my permission.

Despite all of this, I absolutely must give immense credit to the performers. They were all committed artists, and displayed some of the most believable acting I have ever seen in theater. There were times where I was unsure of whether or not this was real – and that is something that I feel is important in what they were trying to do.

Meatology was about the way that men treat women and their bodies as if they were pieces of meat. There were tragic moments which acted perfectly as the force of change that I believe they were trying to create, but unfortunately that all fell below the way that the performance misused shock value. Issues as weighty as the female body and how that is treated need to be dealt with – Meatology had the right ideas in place, but an excessive delivery which made it feel like they were trying to get a reaction rather than be the proponent of action.

Meatology will be showing on July 6 at 18:30 and 22:30, and on 7 July at 16:30 at the Masonic Front.

By Emily Stander