(Peter Crawley’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 7/15.)
Who is watching whom in Exhibit B, the intensely provocative performance installation from South Africa’s Third World Bunfight? Audience members are summoned, one by one, in reverent silence, to move through a series of installations, as though through a museum or a shrine. But here the installations are a series of tableaux vivants, featuring black actors in fixed poses who recall both the brutality of European colonial history in Africa and the contemporary marginalisation of refugees. The performers meet our eyes and hold our gaze. It’s unnerving, imploring, maybe accusatory.
Director Brett Bailey has designed an experience that recalls, in both its structure and detail, the dehumanising and triumphalist displays of colonialism. One of the first installations we see, of a semi-naked woman painted obsidian black, revolving on a plinth, is entitled The Missing Link and accompanied with an inscription about Sarah Baartman, the 19th-century “Hottentot Venus” who was put on gawking display in both her life and death. The fetishisation of Baartman’s body is here invoked between the actor and audience.
Stage Voices Publishing for archived posts and sign up for free e-mail updates: http 2015:// www.stagevoices.com/ . If you would like to contribute a review, monologue, or other work related to theatre, please write to Bob Shuman at Bobjshuman@gmail.com.