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Bent - Midsumma Festival Review

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by Mistress of Culture Vultures (subscribe)
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Bold, risk taking work about body politics at Midsumma Fest

See the World Premiere of Bent by Reuben James, presented by Theatreworks and Variation Three at Midsumma Festival 19-22 April 2021. Book your tickets here.

Performed as theatre-in-the-round, Bent is a multidisciplinary work featuring dance, circus, physical theatre, and visual art about the experience of growing up queer. It is a visual and sensory feast that will leave you mesmerised and moved.

Directed by Reuben James and produced by Lauren Bennett, Bent responds to queerness in the context of contemporary society.

Performed by Variation Three (Meg Ferrier, Mara Galagher, Casey Hare, Reuben James, Kaitlin Malone and Damian Meredith), an ensemble of queer artists, Bent manifests the physical and emotional experience of exploring your identity through contortion, dance, physical theatre, circus and acrobatics all in a very confined theatre space. It's bold risk-taking work, both in its content and presentation, challenging what is 'normal' and disrupting conformity. While there are some dark moments, Bent also takes time to explore the pleasure of finding love, romance, intimacy and the comedic side of life.

Bent is also a multidisciplinary work, which paints (literally and figuratively) many metaphors. The opening scene is a sole performer balancing on a tightrope with no safety net often alone, relying on their own resources, not to falter or fall. It was quite anxiety-provoking to watch this scene, as no one wants the tightrope walker to fall. Is this what it feels like to grow up queer in Australia?

Another interesting aspect to Bent is a live artist witnesses the performance and responds by creating a visual art piece. Post-show, the art is available for purchase in this case, three paintings were made during Bent's season at Theatreworks so each night's performance presents a new opportunity to witness and interpret the action. The artist moves around the theatre witnessing and documenting the story from different viewpoints and later the whole ensemble contributes to the work.

The physical circus aspects of this performance tumbling, falling, tricks, juggling, balls and batons, acrobalancing, wearing different hats also express growing up queer in contemporary society is a constantly changing experience, and one which requires resilience, emotional agility and alertness to keep up with the highs and lows, swings and roundabouts.

There are no words in Bent, but a brilliant soundscape which moves from industrial electronica to 1930s swing and the music of silent movies and pantomime. The ability to laugh at oneself and at the world is vital to survive discrimination and isolation in contemporary society.

Like the Roman Colosseum, the audience is offered to participate in the performance as a witness, bystander, voyeur, or spectator. Is identity a sport? A competition? A game of survival of the fittest? Who will remain standing in its aftermath?

Audience members are seated in glass houses - an innovative response by Theatreworks to provide COVIDSafe seating with transparent walls which allow you to watch the performance with your social bubble.

The strength, rawness and bravery of the Bent performers provide an uplifting resolve to the ongoing political dialogue about LGBTQIA lives today. This performance is tour-ready and needs to be experienced by many different audiences to create new narratives about how our society relates to those who identify as queer today.

Five stars *****
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*Mistress of Culture Vultures was invited as a guest
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Why? Body politics in today's world
When: 7.30pm
Phone: (03) 9534 3388
Where: Theatre Works St Kilda
Cost: $92.50 - $272.50
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