Sarah Blanc – My Feminist Boner – London

Sarah Blanc in My Feminist Boner.© Jonathon Vines. (Click image for larger version)

Sarah Blanc in My Feminist Boner.
© Jonathon Vines. (Click image for larger version)

NOTE: Sarah Blanc has asked us to point out this review contains spoilers.

Sarah Blanc
My Feminist Boner

★★★✰✰
London, The Place
14 September 2018
sarahblanc.com
theplace.org.uk

It’s hard (if you’ll excuse the pun) to resist a show with a title like this.  Sarah Blanc is a feisty performer, nifty dancer and delightful comedienne, who, like most of us, grapples with society’s commodification of female bodies.  Taking us on a hilarious journey from beauty industry victim to born-again feminist, Blanc shares her struggles with dieting, exercise regimes and the pressure to look perfect to the point where she has an epiphany which she calls her feminist boner.

The format of her highly visual and physically robust performance is that of a mixed media chat show. She has the delightful irreverence of Caitlin Moran and the in your face honesty of Rhiannon Faith. In a friendly confessional tone she chats about her guilty addiction to beauty accessories, anti-fat devices, skin straighteners, lip extensions, social media and reality TV – Love Island and the Kardashians being her favourites. In her boudoir of pink, cluttered by beauty paraphernalia, costumes and a luscious, vagina-shaped fabric booth she exposes her anger and frustration with some of the offending props and rituals of body fascism.
 

Sarah Blanc in My Feminist Boner.© Jonathon Vines. (Click image for larger version)

Sarah Blanc in My Feminist Boner.
© Jonathon Vines. (Click image for larger version)

Blanc addresses everyone as Sarah – as we are all in this together and audience participation is part of the course. In one section when she’s boasting about her new ‘boob firming’ accessory, she passes it round the audience and instructs us how to use it. It’s very amusing seeing how audience members negotiate it, myself included.

There’s a hysterical section where she manically dances through a fitness regime against a backdrop of 80’s, cheesy work-out videos. Assembled in a Kardashian corset, bum enhancing pants and face mask she pedals furiously on two lone standing spinning pedals, jumps frenetically in aerobic sequences and tries to rub away the fat around her waist. This juxtaposition of Blanc, a normal woman performing these actions with the oiled up, pouting participants in skimpy lycra going for “the burn” is shocking and reveals how awful these fitness videos were with their soft-porn framing.

Repetitive scenarios throughout the show give it an effective and entertaining structure: one is a pre-recorded video diary of Blanc as a blogger selling ridiculous new beauty products and a kid’s puppet show called The Sarah and Socha Show. The blogger videos feature a glammed-up Blanc testing out over-sized rubber lips, a sinister face mask as an alternative to Botox and finally a man mask. This last contraception when worn to job interviews or at work, Blanc assures us, enables job promotion and “being taken seriously”. Although verging on the absurd, the chummy, superficial manner which Blanc adopts is a brilliant piss-take of the silver-tongued bloggers that dominate social media and are destructive to vulnerable young girls. While in the kids’ show, Blanc is the faux, sympathetic agony aunt accompanied by her flaxen-haired, bug-eyed puppet. Both emerge from a pink vagina (tent) to answer letters from suffering teenage girls, and their responses are as unhelpful as the beauty accessories of the blogger.
 

Sarah Blanc in My Feminist Boner.© Jonathon Vines. (Click image for larger version)

Sarah Blanc in My Feminist Boner.
© Jonathon Vines. (Click image for larger version)

As she finds her feminist boner, there are moments of testosterone-fuelled rage – a monster dance in which she growls and groans as she executes deep- grounded plies; tapping into and reclaiming the grotesque imagery that society paints of feminists. Or she references the torture and pain of endeavouring to conform to beauty stereotypes as she cavorts and shouts energetically while blood drips from her over-sized, fake red lips.  When she’s more resolved and emboldened by her boner, there’s a delightful scene in which she twangs on the chords of her long, carefully cultivated armpit hair and sings a song in defiance of repressive female grooming.

Blanc touches on serious issues in a light, good-natured manner. She reflects quizzically on her telephone conversations with her estranged, feminist hating father and jokes about pain as a necessary condition of beauty, but there’s also urgency to her satire. Finishing the show, she ventures into the audience and coming up close she repeatedly asks us to “look at me”. We do and through the sweat, smudged make-up and shabby leotard we see the suffering of millions of women who want to be looked at and appreciated for what they are.

There’s a messiness to the show, both in content, presentation and visuals which succeeds in offering an effective theatrical counter-culture to the controlled, perfect world of the beauty industry and one that exposes its flawed, disingenuous promises to women.
 
 

About author
Work for DanceTabs

Josephine Leask is a dance writer and lecturer. Having written for a range of dance and art publications, she currently writes for Londondance and the Dance Insider. She lectures in cultural studies at London Studio Centre. Follow her on Twitter @jo_leask
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