‘La Poème’, by Jeanne Mordoj

Summerhall , Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 14th August 2013

As the house lights fade to black, an ethereal tinkle is met with creaking footsteps and a siren from the outside world, as solo performer Jeanne Mordoj crosses the stage for ‘La Poème‘, presented by Crying Out Loud. The intimate black-box venue at the Summerhall seems further shrunk to a diagonal strip of grey, like a shaft of light hitting the floor, and Mordoj is revealed (sans beard) as a respectably dressed woman clutching a suitcase.

This respectability dissolves into something strange as eggshells begin to fall from Mordoj’s person, and comic as they pop out of her mouth to free up her long keened notes into song and playfulness. Even the ‘suitcase’ transforms, revealing itself as an Indian shruti-box. Mordoj’s circus background is as a contortionist, juggler and ventriloquist but, in this show, it is her clowning that has us mesmerised.

20130815-163111.jpgAs eggs and their broken shells appear from all over her body, including from her bra and bottom-boosting bustle, Mordoj takes gleeful delight in discovering the way her form moves; her stomach appears to have a life of its own, and her breasts bounce and jiggle to the calypso soundtrack. With the prominent role of eggs, ‘La Poème’ explores what it means to have a woman’s body, in all its facets, away from censoring proprieties.

An odd-looking hat is revealed to be molded breasts – complete with nipples – and Mordoj treats us to a tongue-in-cheek contact juggling sequence. Later, she will use these same skills with raw eggs…

There is no nudity, and no forceful expression of feminism at work here but, with wild abandon and knowing comedy, the piece seems to be exhorting its female audience to glory in our own physical selves; to hell with what a woman ‘should be’ – you can be whatever you want. Even if the journey to get there might take us to strange and unexpected places.

I watch with fascination from start to finish, and applaud with relish, enjoying the warmth and humour that reach even the curtain call from this talented and visionary performer.

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