Excerpt: ‘The Critic in the episode “Rebounds”’, by Jana Perkovic


Image by Freaktography. Reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

1. in which no theatre gets reviewed

The interesting thing about rebounds is that one often isn’t aware they’re having one.

The interesting thing about rebounds is that one often isn’t aware they’re having one.

Certainly, there are those where one cannot quite lie to oneself. The one-night stands. The hastily start-and-stopped relationships with clearly incompatible people. The ones you come too close to, and then retreat from. The occasional toilet sex.

But then there are the outliers. A summer of flirtation with Alex, for example, right on the heels of Karen, was clearly no more than a band-aid hastily applied to the Critic’s concussioned heart. But Alex was a good person, a decent person, and also German and prudent, so not much more happened than some exchange of wise books, some pleasant frisson, some meaningful conversations down by the Landwerkskanal, where groups of people gently moored boats equipped with beer coolers and entire sound systems playing easy summer techno (because this was Berlin, after all). In a very German way, Alex asked questions and diagnosed, with a simplicity and clarity.

“How long has it been since your last relationship ended?”

“Four months.”

“For me too, four months. That means we will be fine to date again in another six. Until then, we can be a two-person celibacy team.”

But the un-dating they did still had a beneficial effect on the Critic, because the best rebound is, of course, a friendship with just enough romantic overtones to put a warm compress on that bruised heart. They gently held hands, protected each other against unwanted groping, met each other’s friends, cooked dinners, and generally enveloped each other in a cloud of niceness that they managed not to confuse with love. They didn’t see any theatre. It was the summer break.

2. in which some theatre gets somewhat reviewed

The Critic spent a long time confused about the Karen-shaped hole left in her life: why it hurt so much, considering that it was a small thing, an unserious thing, that her emotional investment in Karen had always been mostly a polite reciprocity of affection. The Critic had been wary of straight girls testing the outer borders of their sexual territory, and Karen, she had thought, had not been entrusted with her heart quite enough to break it.

The Critic had been wary of straight girls testing the outer borders of their sexual territory

There was a large contingent of Australians in town for the Foreign Affairs festival. They were doing a lot of coke and felt powerful and as if all mistakes would be reversible, because it is the one quality of summer that it gives the illusion that time is in limitless supply.

At Foreign Affairs, Angélica Liddell, Spanish performer with a reputation for intelligent provocation, presented You Are My Destiny / Lo Stupro di Lucrezia, a performance that left everyone unconvinced about the validity of said reputation. A work about the rape of Lucrezia, and her subsequent suicide in order to restore the honour of the men of her house, was presented in the interpretive key of “rape trauma is a love story,” a statement which would be unsettlingly problematic even in locales less progressive than Berlin.

There was one memorable sequence, in which the male drummers leaned against the back wall in a half-squat that quickly became uncomfortable to even watch, let alone endure. Liddell, the director of the piece, wiped their brows, kissed them, and in other ineffective ways made gestures toward alleviating their suffering, all the while berating Lucrezia for forcing this ordeal. The show of power was brutal and chilling, and there was something there, some kernel of a statement about women and men and society. Mostly, however, Liddell presented an overlong show that mashed together, without a clear structuring logic screaming women, a choir of semi-naked drummers, Christian imagery, Ukranian church songs, little children, and Venetian architecture, in which beer was poured over female bodies, panties tossed into the audience, and all was angry and inarticulate. The final bow was followed, in the foyer, by a number of patrons selling off their tickets to Liddell’s subsequent shows.

The show of power was brutal and chilling

The Critic found herself endlessly distracted by the murky blend of hatred and self-hatred that permeated the piece, something she found distinctly southern European, something from a time before post–Second Wave feminism. Liddell’s women had an anger that spinned towards and away from themselves like a confused compass, and this, she thought, had a lot to do with having one’s female identity formed in societies that haven’t sorted out either their religious, undemocratic, or patriarchal heritage, and mostly weren’t putting any effort to do so, either. It is not exactly that northern Europe was post-patriarchal bliss, but, in Berlin, where every woman wore short hair, thus making the numerous playgrounds and parks appear to teem with dads and lesbians, it always seemed like there was a paved way forward, slow but somewhat certain, that did not involve self-immolation and such.

Besides, the Critic was a big believer in utopian separatism wherever possible, in creating better, easier worlds. She grew up watching her older friends and family burn out on the barricades against right-wing ills, ranging from everyday sexism to Croatia’s war crimes—there were journalists murdered for writing about massacres that occured, that everyone already knew about—and their lives slowly infested with fatigue, aggression, a fixation on the enemy. This is why she came to Australia, to not have her life structured by hate, her identity defined in opposition to something.

To women who complained about men, she always suggested: date women. They thought it was a joke. It wasn’t.

This piece appears in full in The Lifted Brow #29. Get your copy here.

Jana Perkovic is a theatre nerd. Her writings on theatre and dance appear in The Guardian, RealTime, The Conversation and on guerrillasemiotics.com.