The clash of the TV talent show set with the glamorous interior of Vienna’s Volkstheater sets the tone for the evening even before Ophelia’s Got Talent even starts. Florentina Holzinger’s flair to take her performers beyond the clichés of the trivial and the tasteful is not only as strong as ever but also met with the most explosive applause I have witnessed in a while. What begins with a comical hint towards the beloved TV format grows into a two-and-a-half-hour labyrinth of interwoven pop and high culture quotations performed with lustful virtuosity and impressive visual might.
This eclectic yet dramaturgically impressive piece explores the cultural forebears of the character of Ophelia, from Leda to Undine, intertwined with tragic personal stories of the all-female ensemble, ranging from anorexia to rape, before it dares to investigate the grim prospects left for a group of young girls who join the women on stage towards the end. Characteristically for Holzinger’s work, the various acts spread through dance, circus, magic and variety, encompassed by the cinematic narration of live cameras. They include a Houdini-like escape from an aquarium while chained, followed among others by a performer putting a hook through her cheek, a pole dance while hanging in the air high above the stage or – the highlight – a helicopter that descends from the roof to ‘ejaculate’ in the pool below after simulated sex. The naked performers find themselves constantly surrounded by or in water, which courses through the whole evening and their journey through the cultural and historical references. Kitsch, shock and Schiller exist as equals in the world of this daring and feminist work.
The female body, in its different degrees of ability, is gradually defetishised and reclaimed by these embodied muses in a performance built upon the seamless transitions between the past and the contemporary, art and showbiz, the tender and the brutal, the spectacular and the intimate. Where do we go from here?