A raunchy ride into gender politics and the seedy world of noir
This article is from 2015.
Butt Kapinski is a private dick straight out of a Raymond Chandler story. He drawls his hard-boiled slang with a lisp that obliterates the letters L, R and S, all the while looking like Humphrey Bogart; if, that is, Bogey was a woman in a lumpily-padded trench coat. Butt is played by Deanna Fleysher, director of 2013’s Fringe talking-point, Red Bastard.
The story is a murder with the audience playing salient roles. Not only are they implicated in the crime but also in the performance’s success. All the noir tropes are present and transformed: the street lamp that cuts through the darkness is affixed to Butt like a third eye; the soundtrack is provided by an audience member; policemen, corpses and seedy underworld denizens are all conjured by Butt’s mush-mouthed oration and the crowd’s game participation.
Just as Butt is a grotesque parody of the hyper-masculine hard-boiled hero, male audience members are drafted to play female characters and vice versa. The point isn’t laboured but draws attention to the disparity in noir gender roles. While men can be the hero, villain and everything in between, female characters are limited to love interest, sex worker or femme fatale. Our detective’s speech impediment, in addition to being endlessly entertaining, allows Fleysher to utilise a kind of double-speak where Butt means one word but the audience hears another. Thus, transformed, ‘clear’ becomes ‘queer’ and ‘whore’ becomes ‘horror’ and things are even less than they seem.
Just as the noir genre holds a dark mirror up to the values of post-war America, the show analyses noir to expose its subconscious values. Led by accomplished clown Fleysher’s superb physicality, this theatrical comedy offers a thoughtful take on the detective genre amid a raucous (and raunchy) thrill ride.
Liquid Room Annexe, 226 0000, until 30 Aug (not 24, 26, 29), 2.10pm, free.