What is the last taboo in theatre? Clearly not nudity; that bar has been surpassed, not least in contemporary dance. Defecating on stage? It’s certainly nauseating but in Florentina Holzinger’s Apollon it seems simply the result of a show staunchly ripping into any notion of feminine delicacy and restraint.
The six naked women of Apollon slap each other, pull balloons out of their vaginas, and career around as manic cowboys. Whether their self-inflicted mutilations are always real is irrelevant: revulsion supplants curiosity This is particularly nasty when the performers interact with the audience (G&T through a straw that has been passed between a performer’s nose and mouth, anyone?). Many audience members laugh, perhaps relishing the performers’ provocation – yet there is also a tension in being close to and complicit in the violence, a humiliation in receiving a spectacle far more gross than anticipated
Apollon’s strongest moments reveal an inherent savagery or absurdity in gendered behaviour, through exaggeration and distortion. In one section, the performers lounge around the rodeo bull (the centrepiece of the stage), eating the ‘faeces’ produced earlier. ‘Is it vegan?’ an electronically altered voice enquires, perverse in its child-like pitch.
But the scattershot onslaught of scenes can result in meaningful consequences or clear conclusions being lost, and while Balanchine’s neoclassical ballet Apollo is certainly aped through wince-inducing props and flamboyant gestures, this perfunctory parody risks boring even those who enjoy the original.
Breaking a taboo can cause unwritten yet oppressive social rules to come to light and potentially be redressed. While I am impressed by the performers, and respect the disgust they force me to endure (a departure from most theatrical performances that aim to please or inform), the violence is shocking but not revelatory.