The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein: Splat! ¦ Photo: Manuel Vason

The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein: Splat!

The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein: Splat! ¦ Photo: Manuel Vason

My programme tells me that The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein ‘has been making vagina-based work since 2009 and dancey-dance work since 2003’. Opening this year’s SPILL Festival in London, Splat! sits very much in the ‘vagina-based work’ category. The piece is littered with references to popular and mainstream culture’s representation of desirable women. From a Baywatch style red swimsuit, to a ballerina’s pointe shoes, a horde of peroxide blonde wigs, and a bright pink princess dress with matching cone-shaped hat, Splat! delves into the lies that little girls (and of course, little boys) are sold through Western culture. At its best it’s a disquieting attack on the lies that Disney and our pop stars tell our children. At its worst it’s just another performance art piece that mildly amuses whilst trying to shock.

The piece opens with the image of a blonde wig sitting atop a watermelon. It floats mid-air before it’s dropped, splatted centre-stage. As Lauren chops dozens of tomatoes and drops them into an oversized cauldron, one of her minions (Pink Princess Krista Vuori) is told to tape it back together. Over a sprawling and messy ninety minutes, The Famous barks orders to her team of servant-like performers as they voyage through a twisted fairytale land of vomiting princesses, green-faced, blonde-wigged twins and scantily clad men who sit in the wings looking on throughout proceedings.

The piece is hooked on the dark tale of ‘Little Bitch’: a fairytale that begins with a little girl obediently washing, cleaning and cooking for her father in their woodland home and finishes with her sexually ravaging and being ravaged. Throughout the performance we’re presented with the contradictions that permeate our society’s presentation and expectations of women. So we get Lucy McCormick (co-founder of GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN) gyrating in a revealing bikini acting out a sexy death scene. The Famous nonchalantly bursts balloons of tomato juice all over herself by whacking them against a knife held to her groin before urinating on one of her minions, and, later, is strung up by her feet like a piece of meat and eats a hamburger.

With the addition of a photographer and live filming of the action, much of the piece ends up feeling like a conventional performance art piece that we can sit back and enjoy – we’ve seen a lot of this before. Although a sequence in which The Famous dons a pair of roller-skates and oversized Bambi headpiece whilst singing ‘A Whole New World’ from Aladdin is a highlight, it’s not until the final sequence that the piece emotionally connects. Swathed in a mane of blonde hair and clutching her taped together watermelon, The Famous sings along to Leona Lewis’ song ‘Happy’ on loop. Calling on her Woodland Friends, a chorus of bodies in various states of nudity arrive to bravely, hilariously and movingly dance their way through Leona’s song before firing rolls of toilet paper, like fireworks, onto her body. It’s funny and gentle, exhilarating and genuine; a thoughtful and memorable finale.