Left – Melanie Jame Wolf. Photo – Bryony Jackson
Sitting in a circle, audience members at Savage Amusement & Melanie Jame Wolf’s show, Mira Fuchs, are not able to hide their expressions or body language from anyone else. This is important as the work’s essence insists on the shared experience.
Mira Fuchs comes from Wolf’s eight years as a lap dancer, and is full of complexity and humour including the inherent permission to have a right old goosey gander at a gorgeous woman writhing on your lap. Make no mistake about this, she’s saying, don’t try to pretend you’re not feeling desire. Wolf begins by making eye contact with everyone, insists that we see her, that we engage with her. She outlines instructions for anyone receiving a lap dance as to how to be seated in order to accommodate her. It might be uncomfortable but Wolf gently leads her audience through discomfort, beyond our resistance to objectifying her, beyond our confusion at being invited to do so and yet at the same time, not, so that you are always asking yourself who holds the power.
Mira Fuchs is a quietly provocative show. Wolf is graceful and seductive, irresistible, performing semi-naked but deliberately including evidence that she’s not afraid of showing us ‘everything’. Make of that, and of what you’re going through, what you will: be confronted by your contradictory beliefs about female beauty, sexuality, our bodies and the commodification thereof. Your feelings and responses shift throughout the performance; one of her stated intentions is to offer permission to be uncertain.
Clearly Wolf is enjoying herself; she tells us that she has always wanted to perform. Wolf dances almost constantly throughout the show, offering a lap dance to each individual present, dancing over and over so you get a full sense of the repetitive, tiring nature of the work. The show is divided into segments, some information comes via video and voice-over; one of these segments tallies up the actual number of dances she would have performed. Many thousands.
Questions about sex and drugs are answered succinctly. She talks about how she looks like her dad: making up to perform is, in a way, doing a drag on her dad. And doing a drag on herself, performing the fantasy of the desirable feminine for the straight men who come to the clubs. Layers of performance. It’s all make-believe. But your (and her) desires are true. The show includes a funny ‘science is sexy’ mini-lecture on the ecology of a men's club, how the dancers read various groups of males, the subtle ‘sussing out’ of the nature of the pack (Which is the alpha? Where am I safe? Where am I wanted?). We see her doing this to us – on the night Australian Stage went to the show, she responded to the energy of one audience member by not dancing for him, instead she sat and gently gazed into his eyes. Mira Fuchs is a deeply fascinating show, unlike anything I’ve seen before.
Arts House Melbourne
Melanie Jame Wolf/Savage Amusement
Venue: North Melbourne Town Hall | 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Dates: 2 – 12 June 2016
Tickets: $35 – $25
Bookings: artshouse.com.au (03) 9322 3713