An Evening Of Meat: Exclusive Supper Club Meets Feminist Cabaret
If you turn up to the Vaults expecting a sit down meal while a bum writhes in your face, then you're on the right track (sort of).
An Evening of Meat is the work of performance artist Kate March, whose touring troupe of dancers stomp out their feminist message on the table you're about to eat off. It sets out to turn the "all-fours position" — which it presumably sees as one of subjugation and submission – into a joyous celebration of female agency, but does it deliver?
In part, yes. Here, meat isn't just something to be desired (or devoured). Through a sequence of choreographed thrashing, table bashing, impossible headstands and exaggerated grunts, the flesh of the body attains movement, language and its own impulses.
As the meal progresses the lithe performers switch from passive table decoration (and Lisa Von Tang's oriental costumes are exquisite) to living, breathing beings who demand our attention, eventually eating our food and drinking our booze.
Boundaries of personal space are crossed and the gaze is returned, to uncomfortable effect, but that's the point. It's turning the male gaze back on itself.
By the end of the performance, we were spooning chocolate ganache into an open lipsticked mouth, while others were having various beverages poured down their throats by the dancers. Sexy? Sort of. Striptease? Not one that you'd recognise.
Was this exchange of actual food between audience and performer a way of humanising the 'meat' ie the female body? Or an example of how women can/should use their feminine charms to get what they want? A mouthful of miso-glazed aubergine exchanged for a wink and an eyeful. Either way, Michelin-trained head chef Chavdar Todorov has cooked up a five-star, six-course feast.
But this was the evening's downfall. It was hard to be fully engaged in the more than two-hour long performance with all these delicious, well-presented dishes coming our way. And the disjunction between feminist theatre and exclusive supper club extends to the music. The playlist was excellent but what does Radiohead have to do with female empowerment?
Besides all that, we were left wondering if it is really that radical for a group of scantily clad women to be dancing on a table for a paying audience.
Sure, these are super fit, graceful performers who know their way around a yoga mat but if the point was to expand our definition of what is desirable and who does the desiring, where are the voluptuous bodies, the trans bodies, the disabled bodies?
After all, different people are into different cuts of meat.
An Evening of Meat, The Vaults, Leake St, Lambeth, London SE1 7NN, £45, until 2 June
Last Updated 16 April 2018