little black box @ Fringe Factory Theatre
10:30pm, Fri 30 Mar 2007
Mützenball sure did put a fair bit of advertising out there, didn’t it? Despite (or maybe because of) the fact that there was a mere six performances scheduled, it felt like there was an over-abundance of Mützenball posters – with their bold imagery, all shadows and contrast and mystery – on every Fringe-friendly placard place. And the ads completely sucked me in; a hint of sour german goth, subtle promises of joyless innuendo, I filed in with the rest of the tipsy crowd to the ‘Ball, which purported to be an anything-goes club of sexual abandon.
First signs were not good at all; cheap and awfully contrived chunks of titillation, utilising obviously shocking topics of sexuality in an obvious manner. It felt lazy, like the cast had looked at the blood alcohol level of its patrons and decided it wasn’t worth putting in the hard yards this evening. There’s stereotypes galore – the frigid virgin, the loose slut, the rampant gayboy. There’s all the “risque” behaviour you’d expect – oral sex simulation using a cucumber, whipped cream antics, upskirt polaroids of the flustered virgin, snippets of NIN’s “Closer”.
It made me feel like I was sitting in a fetishist, Hellfire-Club-inspired version of What I Heard About Iraq – while I was being sufficiently entertained, it felt cheap… going for the easy laughs, low hanging fruit.
But then the mood of the entire show changes; there’s a wonderfully touching scene with silhouettes of Sarah (the virgin) and Claire (the slut) exploring each other’s bodies without actually touching – it’s a beautiful set-piece, the eloquence of which is rarely recreated in any of the other snippets that make up Mützenball. It doesn’t matter, though – the dialogue is no longer base and cheap, it’s become more contemplative and focused on a search for emotional fulfillment. Where the start of the show was rude words and voyeuristic posturing, it ends on a quest for love.
That’s not to say that Mützenball becomes any less fun, however; there’s a fantastic bit of physical humour recreating female genitals out of folded skin on someone’s back. There’s a demonstration of the wrenching nature of love by the blending of a heart. There’s ludicrous ejaculation scenes and audience participation. There’s comic relief in the throwaway lines to Mario the Music Guy (who does a great job with the sonic backdrop of the evening).
At times it felt cheap, at times it felt preachy, at times it felt lazy, at times it felt silly. The crowd didn’t mind, though, and to be fair, why should they? It was caustic and brash, giggles and guffaws, cringes and I-can’t-believe-they-do-thats. But it’s still cheap.
And whilst the final message of the piece seemed to be a rather flippant “love is really tough, so just fuck yourself silly if you feel like it”, I can’t help but remember how much the mood of the show changed with that one scene of tenderness. Because that moment alone was worth the price of admission; it’s just a shame that it was so isolated in the mush that was Mützenball.