Written by Conor McKee and Contact Young Actors Company
Directed by Tom Hogan, Aqueous Humour
18th-20th December 2014
Billed as a show on the nature of identity, #folksonomy features a cast of confident young actors, who look at questions about gender through a distorted satirical lens. The audience is introduced to a dystopian world where exaggerated gender norms are forcibly imposed by the poles that crowd the stage – each ‘he-bod’ and ‘she-bod’ has their own pole, which turns men into grunting crotch-grabbers and women into pouting flirts. The stereotypes are the stuff of a thousand mediocre stand-up sets, but the actors playing the authorities, who sell this gender essentialism to the world, are so simpering and soulless that it’s really very funny. There is also a running joke of toilet humour, which is funny at times – such as the acronyms for warring gender groups ‘Sisters Have It Tough’ and ‘Championing the Rational Adonis Perception’. However, the frequency of jokes like this feels a little unsophisticated when compared to themes like the development of ‘exo-pregnancy’, or one female reporter’s determination to maintain her integrity while surrounded by the poor ethics of her libidinous male superiors.
The cast are at their most engaging when they explore fresher territory, such as the many jokes about Google owning everything, inappropriate hashtags, or sex in the information age (raunchy tableaux are interrupted by a bellowed, “Have you checked your privacy settings?”). The meatiest moments concern the two characters whose gender performances don’t fit into the required classifications. The fact that one is judged to be a perfectly evolved, beautiful specimen of humanity, while the other is shunned and imprisoned, sends a powerful message about the combination of fetishisation and gender policing faced by non-binary and transgender individuals in our own world.
Powerfully, some of the cast also perform monologues directly to the audience which seem to be about moments from their own lives – at least if their raw and honest style of delivery is anything to go by. One young man stumbles over his words as he describes his wish to wear a dress to a childhood party, and a 15-year-old girl talks about being frightened by the street harassment she’s received on Oxford Road, just metres away from where the audience sits. The company are dynamic throughout, weaving between the many poles as they switch from one scene to the next, and some of them clearly have an instinct for parody and physical comedy. The mixture of silly humour and pointed satire keeps things moving so that the 1 hour runtime feels too short – I’d have loved to see more.