“Are you sitting comfortably?” Liz Aggiss asks as the first act of Slap and Tickle comes to a close. The answer you would expect, of course, is yes – but nothing about this performance conforms to the expected. Visibly shocking, Slap and Tickle is an exercise in the grotesque – but one that you can’t seem to take your eyes off of.
Aggiss shocks and stuns in this highly experimental performance which, in her own words, aims to “decode, in a disorientating display of contradictions, interpretations and propaganda: girls, ladies, women, mothers, pensioners and senior citizens.” Through an unconventional marriage of dance, spoken word and audio the show does just that, leading the audience through an often dark and disturbing representation of gender norms and the language used to portray them. The show is repression – both social and sexual – personified, with Aggiss’ declarations resonating as uncomfortably crass and her movements almost obscene. Aborted babies, nightmarish revivals of vintage children’s radio shows and innuendo ridden participatory party games at the intervals between acts, Slap and Tickle is a more extreme exploration of female exploitation and oppression than most.
Yet, the performance exhibits undeniable candour. The truths it presents may be disturbing but they are truths nevertheless. Aggiss fights back against those who have questioned her as a dancer and a performer for her entire career, but she also fights back against society as a whole and makes us question what the female condition actually is in a 21st century context. For anyone also actively seeking an answer to that question, Slap and Tickle is a show to be both seen and heard.
Words: Emily Hay
Slap and Tickle, The Aviary @ ZOO Venues, Aug 21-26, 7.10pm