Camille Thoman, Numb

Review in Issue 10-3 | Autumn 1998

Described as 'a story about the body told by the body’, Numb is a solo performance that uses the body and little else to tell stories, and to explore the status of the body itself. Despite odd flashes of creative insight, the piece functions more effectively on an intellectual than performative level. Pseudo-psychoanalytical notions of the female body as locus of desire, or intimated ideas of ‘the body in pieces', suggest a theoretical integrity that does not translate into an engaging theatrical experience. These theoretical ideas precede the piece in the various snatches of marketing copy that surround the work (the festival brochure, the flyer, the press release), and interestingly, present a very fractured intellectual rationale (not that this piece attempted intellectual clarity, nor needed it) that correspond to the fragmented presentation of the piece itself.

This fragmentation emerges on several different levels, and results in the piece's strongest and weakest aspects. Thoman successfully fragments her own body – her hands transforming into fish, spiders and birds – through a skilful defamiliarisation. In the most effective section, a single arm becomes an intimate, sensual and entirely separate lover. This sectioning off of the body renders the performer strangely sexless, paradoxically subverting one of the artist's own concerns, although I found the sexlessness of Thoman's body far more intriguing than rather trite narratives of the female body as object of all desire.

An overextended strobe-lit section at the end of the piece (fragmentation through lighting) is powerful but strangely lacking, and some awkward scene changes (audaciously turned into self-contained scenes) do little to help maintain the audience's attention. But this is nonetheless an interesting and intelligent piece of work.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Aug 1998

This article in the magazine

Issue 10-3
p. 23