A new festival dedicated to contemporary performance, Take Me Somewhere is just kicking off for the first time in Glasgow. Angry, noisy, and physical, Blow Off sets a strong note for the rest of this event. Part gig, part theatre, this energetic performance tells the story of a nameless woman intent on dynamiting the patriarchy and herself in a kamikaze attack against the building where she used to work. The show follows her as she walks up the unnamed street, leading to the equally unnamed company – ‘a household name’, she assures us –, which she intends to destroy, while invoking her memories in a sung litany of rage and woe, all the way from childhood to her assault by an unidentified man on the street.
Julia Taudevin, the creator of the performance, is all over the place, singing, screaming in rage, writhing on the stage, panting or sighing into her mic, and even sometimes licking it. She is accompanied by viola-player Kim Moore, Tuff Love’s own Susan Bear, and, for the first time, by guitarist Beldina Odenyo. The band is due to release an album based on the show later in the year.
To craft this story of female violence, Taudevin took her inspiration from a book about two women terrorists. The show, she says, is about opening ‘a space for female rage’ – and open it it does. From the start, Taudevin’s convulsive, feverish delivery leaves no place for peace or quiet, as her character recalls her life as a series of years of oppression, starting with the labelling of her body as female and, therefore, taboo. There is a song consisting solely in enumerations of synonyms for the word ‘vagina’, something the English language is certainly not short of. My favourite is a punk cover version of an old French-Canadian nursery song – ‘Alouette, gentille alouette’ (Lark, sweet lark’) –, which describes a scene of torture, a suitable subtext for the heroine’s predicament.
First presented at the Fringe last summer, the show has since taken on even greater resonance, as the performers remark, in its questioning of the place occupied by women in society. However, Blow Off opens more questions than it can possibly answer. In her days working in the building, the heroine tries – and fails – to befriend a cleaning lady, whose figure looms throughout the show. Extolling revolt, the play seems to simultaneously gesture towards the heroine’s mental alienation and shakiness, until its paradoxically jubilant ending. Violence pervades the show, and yet its outcome is never fully explained, making the character’s trajectory seem oddly fruitless. Certainly the topic of women, and violence, merits to be put on stage, but it also needs more investigation.
Brimming with energy, Blow Off is enjoyable as a theatrical event, or even as a concert, more than as a thoroughly articulated reflection.