Or rather, it would be an autopsy if these reductive and insidious tropes, behaviours, and attitudes weren’t still very much alive and kicking in all avenues of present-day life – from playground to parliament.
Indeed, for all the physical and stylistic mayhem brought by Leah throughout the show, it’s two final moments – one exasperated, another in requiem – that are its most powerful: Like the story of Eve from the Bible, the story of Pandora has at its misogynistic heart the moral of the first woman bringing evil and misfortune to the world.
The show opens with a voiceover telling this story and that voiceover continues, shifting to clips from films and vintage guides to how to behave, before collapsing and overlapping on themselves until Leah lifts her head to tell the voiceover to: “Shut the fuck up.”
Another stark, mournful image is Leah taking the remains of a latex suit – plump lips, idealised feminine physique – and bringing it front and centre. The figure is a reminder of for all the progression in recent times, we still live in a patriarchal society that objectifies women, yet shames and punishes women for exercising their own agency when it comes to their sexual expression.
The show might not offer any insights or challenges to those in attendance (it was very much preaching to the converted), there’s still a vital need for this sort of clarion performance art, unfortunately now more than ever.
Bitch on Heat
Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street, St Kilda
Performance: Thursday 9 May 2019
Season continues to 19 May 2019
Information and Bookings: www.theatreworks.org.au
Image: Leah Shelton stars in Bitch on Heat – photo by Sarah Walker
Review: David Collins