‘Sisters are Doing it For Themselves’ blares out as we take our seats. The family next to me in the queue have a young girl of around 10 or 11 in their party, and they ask an usher if the show is suitable for her. There may be some things that go over her head, is the reply…
And we’re off! Seven strong women in plain black, practical two-piece circus outfits bounce onto the stage. ‘Here we go, boys!’ they cry in broad Aussie accents, and – oh, OK, we now notice the bulges in their crotches and the moustaches drawn on with black kohl pencil. They perform a mock-macho acrobatic dance number: ‘I’m a man / nothing to break!’ booms out as they flex biceps and pump iron, forming towers and pyramids, flipping this way and that, maintaining the stereotypical masculine pose throughout. One of the ‘men’ is now a ‘woman’. She stands in a Betty Boop pose, wrapped in a white towel, as the ‘men’ cheer and crow. As she turns around we see the bright red stain on back of the white towel… ‘Oh NO… Urrrggghh’ cry the men. ‘But would you?’ says one. ‘Would you?’
The lights turn red. Long red ribbons are fluttered as the women skip around girlishly like young female gymnasts, then the mood shifts and they become a many-headed menstruation monster, as one steps out to tell harrowing tales of flash foods and failing tampons. Most of the audience are laughing and applauding; some are sitting silently, aghast; a few walk out. And we’re only ten minutes in!
The gender play – switching into ‘man’ mode and back again, often in one scene – continues throughout, occasionally undermined with lines such as ‘this may surprise you, but I’m not a man’. The ensemble work well together, taking turns to step out of the circus action into narrator role, or morphing into characters – notably, a line-up of drunken night-out confessions that starts with ‘Five pints of Fosters and I…’, and the skilled portrayal an old woman in a housecoat and slippers musing on the men in her life: ‘He was a good man…’ which pre-empts harrowing tales of male entitlement, although housecoat-lady can clearly hold her own.
Which is the point, ultimately – this is a show about female resilience. When we get a repeat of the ‘one woman in a room full of crowing men’ scenario, our heroine kick-boxes and cartwheels her way to personal space alone on the stage.
I find myself wondering what the 11-year-old girl is making of all this – a glance behind me shows that she is sitting on her dad’s lap laughing merrily…
Along with mocking male mores, the team are also willing to take the Mickey out of stereotypical female behaviour. We are treated to a wonderful Can Can inspired dance routine to Tom Jones’ She’s a Lady, replete with Tiller-girl kicks and handstand walk-overs, all teeth and smiles and flowery knicker adornments. Oh, and there is an aerial act, introduced with, ‘Did you think you could come to an all-female circus show and not see an aerial act? Did you?’
With the exception of this one aerial (straps) number, the action is floor based: excellent ensemble acrobatics, full-on dance, physical comedy skits, and more. YUCK is a mighty mash-up of feminist message and fun-filled circus numbers – full of raucous energy, and a joyous exploration of all those lady things nobody likes to talk about. Take your daughters – and your sons.