Edinburgh Fringe 2019
“Everything I See I Swallow is a provocative examination of a mother/daughter relationship, set against a backdrop of shifting attitudes to empowerment, feminism and sexuality. In a world where #MeToo and #TimesUp have become rallying cries against female sexual harassment, how does a woman defend the objectification of her own body and the gaze from those around her? How are the lines drawn and how is the rope tied? Fusing theatre and aerial rope work with the erotic art of Japanese rope bondage, shibari, Swallow is an unusual and compelling encounter.”
The opening of this show is dramatic with a performer hoisted up and entangled in ropes, while another struts back and forth below. The visual is stunning and the play unfolds with a plethora of points of view about the objectivity of the body and more.
The generational element is in the forefront as the dialogue continues when the two performers, Tamsin Shasha and Maisy Taylor speak in monologue to the audience and also in dialogue together. The mother played by Shasha and daughter played by Taylor have clear differences in opinion about the body.
Another factor is that both performers are accomplished aerialists and the skills are integrated within the play as it develops.
Written and performed by Shasha and Taylor and directed by Helen Tennison the production is an interesting starting point for a new company. There is much quality and finesse about the performances and visual concept and is very intriguing – it cannot fail to grab your attention!
Taylor speaks first and talks about being pretty and how it affected her growing up, perpetuated by casual compliments from family or friends. This topic is fascinating and not always part of the dialogue about seeking equality or thinking before making such comments that can affect young girls. As she speaks she changes positions in the air and ties the rope in a ways that allows it to become a chair to perch on.
Shasha as the mother is an effective contrast to Taylor’s daughter and the former likes to be looked at, her hot pink suit screams for attention! Like Taylor, she also entwines herself in the ropes, climbs high up and when near the ground fashions the rope into a seat. The dynamic between the two actors is effective and believable, especially later in the play when the story focuses on their differing opinions on posting information on social media.
What does being a feminist mean? It’s fascinating to hear the mother and of age daughter discuss how they value their bodies. Authors such as Caitlyn Moran and Judith Plastow are quoted in their conversation with ideas about femininity and sexuality.
Lighting by Charlotte McClelland is well designed and adds to the atmosphere in the already quirkiness of Summerhall’s Demonstration Room theatre space. Information is projected on the wall and voiceovers are also part of the storytelling.
Shasha, Taylor and Tennison have created a visually impactful show, it is creatively presented and tackles important themes. The script includes many ideas about body objectification to MeToo and could perhaps benefit from tightening up here and there.
While the ropes are part of the aerial act the rope is also a tantalising prescient metaphor, which can be interpreted in more than one way, depending on one’s outlook and opinion. Seeing this provocative show will stir up discussions on this topic, and that can only be a good thing!