At this year’s Edinburgh Fringe I watched a man loudly brush his teeth and gulp down a huge amount of foaming toothpaste on stage, so the competition for most gross show was fierce. However, I feel the winner has to go to the vibrant This Really Is Too Much, for covering the stage with water, face cream, cleaning product and lettuce, and then smearing it on their bikini clad bodies while pleasant, supermarket music plays, in a grotesque parody of commercial sex appeal. This Really Is Too Much was chosen for the Edinburgh Fringe as part of Underbelly Untapped, where three shows have been selected to support new writing and performance, and was brought to the Fringe by the Gracefool Collective, comprised of Rachel Fullegar, Rebecca Holberg, Sofia Edstrand, and Kate Cox.
This Really Is Too Much is an all-female feminist theatre and dance piece, but really creates a genre bending performance, with movement playing an integral part in the vignettes on the realities of being a woman in the modern day, stretching the themes to absurdity through contortions of the body. As touched upon above, this production plays with the idea that sex appeal as understood through the public eye is a grotesque bending of the human form into an impossible norm, and that when sex is used for commercial purposes this becomes futher exacerbated. This Really Is Too Much explores this through bending the body to extremes, and moving through dance in a way which bends the performers forms into ridiculous proportions – all while retaining some original source material for “standard” sexual poses. Through this the issue of the patriarchal gaze is addressed, as it is clear the characters have taken their bodies way beyond what is comfortable and naturally necessary, all the while smiling desperately, with slightly wild eyes, at the audience, willing us to approve of their actions. This show intentionally gives the audience a feeling of guilt that these women are performing for you to make it’s point.
The phrase, ‘”we have never had it so good” is repeated throughout This Really Is Too Much, and serves to contrast popular denial of the necessity of feminism with the reality of how far we still have to go. While the media and society says this, women still suffer gender-related oppression all over the world, developed nations included. According to the UN’s Development programme, while “Girls and women have made major strides since 1990 […] they have not yet gained gender equity. The disadvantages facing women and girls are a major source of inequality”. This reality is represented in this production by one of the actors saying this line, trying to get it out again and again, while being prevented from doing so by being forced to parade their lingerie clad body across the stage, lifted, pushed and shoved into position in a manner which is amusing, while also implicitly making a powerful point.
One of the wonderful aspects of This Really Is Too Much is how the performance says so much about contemporary womanhood without ever being overly explicit. Through their sketches such as a thank you speech subtly mocking the pressure to “have it all”, to a beauty queen desperate to talk about fiscal policy, the performance manages to be both entertaining and disturbingly truthful, even through its visual absurdity.
This Really Is Too Much was performed at Underbelly Cowgate as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 2017.