Edinburgh Fringe 2019
dressed. is a piece inspired by a young woman’s experience of being stripped at gunpoint, and the subsequent steps she took to reclaim her body.
Co-created by four women who have known each other since school, it explores not only sexual politics, but the power of female friendship and the importance of individual self expression.
dressed. is “about being ready to howl. And about being ready to hear those who howl back.” It is about redressing and re-dressing
At its core, it is a piece inspired by Lydia Higginson’s experience, aged 19, of being stripped at gunpoint. In the wake of this horrific event, Higginson, a costumier, decided to replace her entire wardrobe of clothes with items she made herself, a process she documented in a blog called ‘Made My Wardrobe’.
She also approached her old school friends – theatre maker Josie Dale-Jones, singer Nobahar Mahdavi and dancer Olivia Norris – and together they set out to co-create a piece of theatre that speaks to her experience and explores not only the sexual politics of reclaiming our bodies, but also the power of female friendship. In doing so they have also made a piece that speaks reams about the importance of individual self expression.
A fascinating blend of different performance media, dressed. has the feel of patchwork. Each of the friends brings her own skill set and creative expression to the piece. At times these complement each other, at others they are strangely at odds; both combinations excite and lend a handmade feel to a show that needs not to seem polished.
Laurence Cook’s dramaturgy maintains a lightness of touch so that, important as the narrative is, it never gets in the way of the performers’ presence. dressed. is steeped in humour and irony (a ‘lucky’ break with a passport for example), as well as the deepest poignancy.
Dissonance plays an important role. The songs, composed by Alex Paton with Nobahar Mahdavi (who also sings), start out as dreamlike, almost romantic, yet break out into a roar. Mahdavi’s voice at times reminds us of the ululating cry of Higginson’s host in the unnamed country in which she was staying. Paton’s soundscape incorporates white noise which disconcerts and alerts.
Olivia Norris’s choreography is delicious, and her own movement alternately lithe and angular, distorted. Dale-Jones’ clowning performer – putting a brave face on the pain – is especially unsettling. And at the centre of them, quietly focused, Higginson sits and sews the costumes they wear.
These women – with their rage and messiness and sensuality – are hard to ignore.
dressed. is often surprising, always moving. Formally daring, it is a powerful celebration of female self expression that avoids telling us what to think or how to feel, and whose message is far louder as a consequence.
Dressed is at The Pleasance Courtyard at 12.10 until 25 August.