Power Ballad (5 stars)

This article is from 2017

Power Ballad

credit: Robin Kerr

A brilliant mash-up of flesh, sonics and text

Kiwi performer Julia Croft, face hidden by a mask of long hair, writhes on the floor, seemingly made from rubber. She is at once a film noir Spider lady and totem of desire: something biddable yet fearful. She crawls suggestively on all fours, breasts exposed, jiggling as she slides a phallic microphone between them. Then she lets it slip, and swing between her legs. She is now a purveyor of 'cock rock', legs splayed as she rocks out.

Many shows lay claim to gender fluidity, but this is the real deal: othering, teasing, provoking. The tone moves between hysteria and terror, joy and despair. Croft, now fully clothed yet somehow more vulnerable, breathes into the mic, looping breaths which build into storms. She shifts the pitch in her voice, lending it masculine and feminine timbres. Buzzwords are shrieked out in a fragmentary lecture, emitted like a Dadaist poem and exorcism.

'Theatre!' she yells. 'Patriarchy', 'Lang… uage', 'Inter… sectionality', 'Power structures.' She simultaneously parodies the tendency towards any over-earnest readings of feminist art while unashamedly proclaiming her agenda. Her incantation becomes littered with terms which put down women. 'Just words', she dismisses, brushing the words aside with a swift flick of her wrist, but the damage has been done.

A soothing bout of karaoke by Pat Benatar and Annie Lennox should help. But Croft isn't biting without the accoutrements of pop videos. By turning the microphone to the audience, she again silences herself, posturing in the ways the music industry reduces women to archetypes: goddess, diva, chanteuse, rock chick. Just harmless labels. Aren't they?

Summerhall, until 27 Aug (not 21), 7.30pm, £11–£12 (£9–£10).

Power Ballad

  • 5 stars

Part performance lecture, part karaoke party, Julia Croft (If There’s Not Dancing at the Revolution, I’m Not Coming) deconstructs gendered linguistic histories and rips apart contemporary language to find a new articulation of pleasure, anger and femaleness.