Touch Me, manipulate Festival 2017, Traverse, review
This intense, claustrophobic visual theatre piece is from the Belgian company Sandman and is one of the extraordinary European premieres that the manipulate Festival should be most proud of.
The festival is run by Puppet Animation Scotland but Touch Me involves neither puppets nor animation. It does contain nudity, strong language, sexual content and strobe lighting (the most offensive of which is the strobe which seems to be pointed directly into the audience).
Anyone in the packed house expecting titillation can leave now. The set suggests hotel room cum padded cell. The kapok compartments of a giant duvet lit from behind look like cloud photographs in negative.
The soundtrack moves from industrial thumps to current dance music as Molenaar explores the world of touch, encompassing female sexuality and identity, intimacy and desire. This is the touch that soothes and satisfies as well as the touch that repels; the touch that’s as tender and gentle as a reassuring stroke or as unwelcome as a slap in the face.
Molenaar gives nothing less than a mesmeric performance. A sequence where she snarls menacingly into the mic is genuinely terrifying.
There are hints of Tracey Emin as much as David Lynch. In one sequence she is a private dancer in heels and black wig whose direct stare challenges perceptions of the sex object there only to be lusted after.
In another she transforms behind a backlit screen into a threatening, all-devouring insect perhaps about to consume her mate. Molenaar’s almost double-jointed athleticism can suggest two people in a bed or the lonely shivering angst of someone starved of real intimacy.
Touch Me is provocative, a masturbatory hallucination, a triumph that sears the retinas. Don’t be surprised if, the next time you tangle in the duvet, you have a panic attack.
2 February 2017 at 9pm age recommend 12+