Everything I See I Swallow Summerhall

Shasha and Taylor Productions

This wasn’t on my original Fringe schedule, but after a conversation with Tamsin Shasha and Maisy Taylor, the schedule went out the window, and I’m in the Demonstration room witnessing what is by far the best thing I’ve seen on the Fringe this year.
Speaking as someone who gets dizzy on a stepladder, the sight of these two artistes performing aerial manoeuvres that demand a high level of skill, strength and dexterity high above the audience means I have to take a deep breath, and that’s before we even start on the storyline. And both the rope work and the script are done without use of a safety net.
We enter the room to see Taylor suspended in mid-air, near naked, tied with red cords; she practices Shibari, the Japanese art of rope bondage. Much of what we see takes place as a result of her character’s mother (Shasha) discovering Olivia (Taylor) has posted photographs of herself on the internet in just such poses.
This is a dialogue on mother/daughter relationships, on letting go, on ties that bind, literally and metaphorically. A mother who has come to define herself as a mother, losing sight of the woman she has always been. A mother who wants the best for her daughter, but wishes still for the child she was, someone to care for, to protect. And as someone with long-held liberal beliefs, who now sees this child is a grown woman, with strongly held ideas of her own, and finds it difficult to cope with.
This daughter, who has always been told how beautiful she is, wants to take control of this beauty, to present herself as she wishes to be seen. If she wants to show her body, it is on her terms, and for her pleasure, not for the gratification of some random beholder.
The arguments are articulate, the rights of ownership of our own bodies and minds against what society expects. Does being naked before others mean you can’t be a feminist? Or does being a feminist give you the right to say what other women can or can’t do with their bodies? Shasha and Taylor don’t pretend to have all the answers, but this work – provocative in the sense that it will provoke discussion and argument – is an intelligent, thoughtful way to open that discussion.
My only quibble is that the Summerhall programme put a 16+ rating on this. I would suggest that it’s something every teenage girl in the country should see. And probably take their mum, too. I don’t give star ratings, but if I did, this one would rate 5.

Jim Welsh