‘These actors’ walls are down, although admittedly the walls in their stories are usually low.’ Keith Gow reviews post’s Ich Nibber Dibber
One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object – and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.
John Berger, Ways of Seeing
Three women appear floating in darkness, draped in white. Flashes of light give them an ethereal air. As the bright lights focused on the audience fade down, the vision of the women comes into focus. They are posed like classical Greek statues.
These women are Natalie Rose, Mish Grigor and Zoe Coombs Marr of the feminist performance art group, post. And they are here to talk shit, both metaphorical and scatological.
post have been creating theatre for over a decade and over the years Nat, Mish and Zoe have had long discussions about their lives, as friends do. As part of their theatre-making process, they decided to record these conversations. Ich Nibber Dibber, now on at Malthouse Theatre, is an attempt to make some sense of their recurring questions, consternations and obsessions.
The show is 70 minutes of proof that sometimes we run out of things to say, but that doesn’t stop us from talking – especially to our best friends. Nothing is off limits: we get poo stories, puke stories, deliberation over their messy love lives, conjoined twins and dry vaginas. These actors’ walls are down, although admittedly the walls in their stories are usually low and someone is getting fingered on them.
We bounce from Mish to Natalie to Zoe, the stories unspooling chronologically over 15 years. We follow Natalie from singleness to marriage to pregnancy and motherhood as Mish bounces from boy to boy to boy. And we have Zoe, a lesbian, talking about disrupting hetero-norms while having the longest, most stable relationship of all three.
Early on during the performance I attended, a couple – a man and a woman – walked out of the theatre. I wondered what made them leave, whether it was the focus on bodily waste or the fact that early on, the piece seems shapeless and messy. Could it have been that they weren’t used to hearing women speak like this, or weren’t willing to listen, to hear them out?
A lot of current discourse is about listening to marginalised groups, hearing their stories to understand their experiences. If there is a discussion about equality, listen to those who suffer inequality. If there is a discussion about racism, let those who are victims of hate speech or vilifying cartoons talk about how they feel. And the #metoo movement is all about listening to women.
In Ich Nibber Dibber, post is making it clear that the usual narrative is embodied by John Berger quote above – men act and women appear– and they aren’t interested in it. Nat, Mish and Zoe do appear, but also literally act or re-enact their theatre-making process. Although they sit and recline as if objects in a museum, by speaking to us on their own terms the women disrupt the conventional expectations.
As Hannah Gadsby said in her recent Netflix special Nanette, centuries of art have been defined by male artists painting women as “flesh vases for their dick flowers”. post are the subjects of their own art and not the objects of a male artist or the male gaze; even as we watch them, they are in control.
I thought again about the couple who left early. I wondered what they talked about when they left, what impression they had of the first 15 minutes of Ich Nibber Dibber. Most of all, I wondered what they might have thought if they had stayed. Might they have recognised the show’s request for them to really listen?
The formal poses of Hellenistic statues relax throughout the show and permit us to see the apparatuses upon which they’re posed. At one point, Natalie unstraps herself and pops off to the loo and the façade cracks a little. These figures aloft on pedestals aren’t angels or Venuses de Milo. They are women turning their gaze on themselves and asking us to actually listen to their experience.
The details of the conversations might seem mundane but the accumulation of those experiences turns into something profound.
Ich Nibber Dibber, written, directed & performed by post (Zoë Coombs Marr, Natalie Rose & Mish Grigor. Set and costume design by Michael Hankin, light design by Fausto Brusamolino, sound design and composition by James Brown. At malthouse Theatre until September 26. Bookings
Malthouse Theatre is wheelchair accessible. It is best that bookings are made as far in advance as possible.
Audio described performance: 8pm, Wednesday September 12. A tactile tour will take place following this performance. Audio Introduction here. Please note individuals accessing these services are eligible for concession-priced tickets. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.