Entering the Demonstration Room at Summerhall the audience are immediately immersed in an almost subterranean atmosphere. Olivia, played by Maisy Taylor, is suspended with red rope from the ceiling and Tamsin Shasha, playing Olivia’s mother, her hands bound, writes: “DON’T LOOK AT ME” on a blackboard, instantly creating an atmosphere of exposure and conflict.
This tension is carried throughout the entire performance as the plot reveals a mother and daughter embroiled in an intellectual war over sexuality and their relationship to feminism. This intergenerational debate on whether nudity and eroticism are empowering or tools of oppression is eloquent and well-executed. From the constant quipping of contrasting feminist quotes to the shouted arguments about the Olivia’s bondage art project and personal sex life the dynamic is fresh and captivating and the plot has a real sense of movement and evolution.
Starting with Olivia’s description of growing up, feeling no ownership over her body and believing her beauty belongs to others before branching into both personal and societal relationships to the female form makes this a timely and thought-provoking piece of theatre.
The staging is stunning, particularly the use of aerial rope. Blending perfectly with the narrative and reflecting the character’s strife and personality it is utterly captivating. Most impressive is the final piece where Shasha and Taylor climb on one rope, moving with each other in a poignant exploration of familial relationships, empathy and understanding.
The use of video projection, showing Google results, an Instagram page and overlapping quotes, adds an extra dimension to the narrative, providing a sense of grounding realism and a chance to truly absorb the world of the show.
Both Taylor and Shasha are fantastic, portraying the characters with complexity, thoughtfulness and energy. From Shasha’s screaming outburst and frenzied crying in an M&S changing room to Taylor’s selfie-taking and defending of her polyamory while suspended by one hand on a rope, there is true dynamism and impressive range. The two are at their best in conflict, flinging careless insults and hurtful jibes at one another with a constant undercurrent of frustrated love, ensuring the relationship build throughout the story is believable and heartfelt.
Everything I See I Swallow is visually gorgeous with its depiction of shibari and aerial rope performances, but more than that it brings light to a fascinating dynamic and complex topic to create truly thought-provoking theatre.