“Bless the Sound that Saved a Witch like me”

Benjamin Kahn

Could Benjamin Kahn have achieved better casting for this intermittently disquieting solo than Sati Veyrunes? Elfin, unpredictable yet almost fiendishly in control, this bewitching performer has presence to spare.

Barefoot in black jeans, baggy blue Adidas blouse, and sporting eerie white contact lenses that make her eyes appear as if they’ve rolled up into her sockets, Veyrunes is by turns flushed, reflective, deceptively self-conscious, dangerously coy. She says she wants to share a scream with us and does so, repeatedly. She spins ecstatically, quickly rubs from crotch to throat, dry-humps the floor, thrashes loose her dark hair. Hands are raised taut overhead, fingers pointing like a gun.

Veyrunes enacts the giddy seductress. This woman-child – part angel, part demon – is both seemingly innocent and lewd. ‘Are you okay?’ she asks. Ha! Sensational though she is, the spook show trappings – strobe lighting, ear-splitting soundtrack, even the use of a microphone – don’t always do her justice. There’s something suspect and meretricious about the whole thing. Still, it’s a helluva vehicle for Veryunes and she knows how to drive it.

Donald Hutera

Sitting in the corner of the stage, smiling coquettishly at us, is a diabolic child. Later, lying on her stomach with her feet up and casting challenging glances – the siren. Screaming into the microphone, neck and hair smeared with tarry liquid – a witch.

Choreographer Benjamin Kahn’s solo for the intriguing performer Sati Veyrunes evokes different figures of dangerous femininity. Together they conjure a compelling show, but also provoke questions about who has the right to create art based on female transgression.

The work’s power stems from Veyrunes’ charisma. At one point she says that we need to “invent new screams to crack this time and space”. Her voice indeed seems to penetrate our bodies down to the bone; similarly, the strobe lights are so strong that they violently permeate closed eyelids. But we can’t be sure what specific order this witch wants to crush, nor what she wants to invoke to replace it. Patriarchy here seems like an abstract rather than a real oppression.

Zuzanna Berendt

Screaming herself pink, submitting to a mischievous giggle, and spinning into a whirling dervish, Sati Veyrunes enters a series of trance-like states in this fascinating collaboration with choreographer Benjamin Kahn. She wanders the stage with a feline opacity, gradually undressing as she jerks and bounces in a choreography that is simultaneously erotic and absurd.

This disjointed ritual summons the reviled bodies of the women who, throughout history, seek to destroy regimes of order and control. With a wicked smile, Veyrunes transforms again and again, from siren to seductress, femme-fatale to whore, chanteuse to punk-rocker. Incomprehensible, inappropriate and completely unconcerned, she is thoroughly weird to behold.

The performance feels a bit like a bad trip, but that is precisely its charm. It embraces the rhythms and movements that have been repeatedly dismissed by the man-made principles of Western theatre. There is dark magic at work here, and it is a thrill to be under Veyrunes’ spell.

Luke Macaronas

Small at the in-between of a black wall and white floor, Sati Veyrunes screams. This is what she has just enticingly promised to do, but you still don’t expect the ear-piercing sound when it comes.

Shifting from angelic child to haunting seductress, she rolls her eyes in ecstasy, smiles an eerie doll’s smile and delivers a passionate monologue (‘not a mother, not a virgin, not a whore’) punctured by more screams. In her white contact lenses Veyrunes is often hypnotic, carrying us through sharp-edged portrayals of female archetypes – although you’re left with the feeling that she doesn’t always know what to do with the space she has available and so her persuasion, at times, falters.

Towards the end, shirtless, hair and neck matted with black dye, she wields the microphone like a prophet her sceptre. However, the fact that a male choreographer is presenting a piece on outcast feminine power makes me suspicious of decisions made about the performer’s nudity and sexualization. I wonder: is this essential to the work or is just another case of an out-of-touch male gaze?

Simina Popescu