Arts Review: BLOOD ON THE DANCE FLOOR
BLOOD ON THE DANCE FLOOR is a multimedia show with an impressive emotional range, hell-bent on hurtling the audience on an emotional roller coaster.
As part of the Big World Up Close series at Arts Centre Melbourne, Jacob Boehme has devised a show that incorporates not only a massive amount of theatrical technique - but also a vast amount of subject matter. Drawing on his experience in the queer, blak, and poz communities, the show is artful in the way it tours a wide array of complicated and nuanced subjects.
Opening with camp fun and a bold monologue you could be fooled into thinking this was a run of the mill cabaret. Stories about drag queens and dick jokes, resplendent with Boehme flouncing around in a gorgeous kimono. You'd think that this was going to be another comedy about Grindr, lesbians, and straight people who throw gender reveal parties.
Fortunately, this show is nothing of the sort. The festive opening and crass, witty humour is a smokescreen. The jokes in the epilogue are all shadowed by a community in turmoil. Clubs and bars littered with those lucky enough to evade unknown darkness. A time that would come to be known as the AIDs crisis - but not before claiming the lives of so many with so much potential.
Interview: Jacob Boehme talks to In Review about BLOOD ON THE DANCE FLOOR
Boehme does an exceptional job of showing queer culture in a raw, gritty and human way. Not devoid of the cheeky fun the LGBTIQ+ community is famous for - he shows the deeply relatable drama of dating. Where to go on a first date? How to talk about oneself on said date? How to disclose a part of you that your partner may not like? Questions many of us have asked ourselves at some point.
Not only this but oftentimes gay culture is watered down to make it more palatable to a world that may not be ready to see all the ugly and scary parts. A scene depicting a cruising venue is done with eye-opening integrity and perhaps the kind of honesty a post-marriage-equality Australia needs.
It touches on breeders and seeders, bug chasers, and the hookup culture that has sustained and destroyed gay people to this day. These themes usually get overlooked in the sanitised world of drag queens and smiling same-sex couples exchanging rings. The fierce and shameless way these ideas are tackled says a lot about how far we have come, but also cries out for progress.
Alternating between dance, drama, and media, the show is effortless in the way it jumps from one emotional arc to another, each transition feeling deliberate and full of intention. The use of dance between monologues is meditative and sombre - a perfect bridge from a joke to a tragedy. His movement is often set to a rear-projected cyclorama, adding context and feel, complementing the movement.
Boehme uses the theme of blood to investigate his relationship as a descendant. The feeling of expectations from family, the weight of an inherited culture. His ancestry being from the Narangga and Kaurna nations of South Australia, he uses the theme to explore and dissect his relationship with his father particularly. These scenes are moving and honest. The vulnerability in them is so evident, and Boehme excels in his character acting. Bringing gravity and honesty to his performances without the serious subjects becoming too painful or draining, he bares his past with courage.
Throughout the show is the use of a motif of the index finger. Outstretched in accusation of shame. Used to trace a line on a map from one place to another, or on a path from father to the eldest son in a family tree. Held outstretched to be pricked by a pin revealing a scarlet drop. Sliced with a knife in a kitchen accident. The use of pointing throughout the show, though subtle, is a moving and apt way to tie the themes together, giving the entire performance a calculated and cohesive feel.
Finishing with a direct and unnervingly genuine look at living with HIV/Aids, the production is intent on changing hearts and minds, putting trust in the audience to understand its straightforward approach. Few shows allow so much faith in the viewer to use their logic and empathy to answer the questions each scene raises. It is indicative of an intelligent and analytical mind reaching out an offering of understanding.
Jacob Boehme should be commended for his talent and ability to be able to convey so much in just an hour of theatre. His blunt honesty and capacity to entertain are combined to produce a show that is not only deeply moving but begs the world to discuss how we treat each other with kindness and respect. Laying so much of himself out on the stage is no small task, and yet he rises to the occasion with candour and bravado that inspires. The full range of his skills are put to the test in this performance, and he exceeds expectations at every opportunity.
This is a show that has fresh takes on what it means to be gay. What it means to be part of a family. Whether our fates are dictated by blood or choices. It opens up dialogue about fate and our own sense of agency. Brimming with even handed critique, you are sure to come out the other end of the performance alive with curiosity for the lives of others and renewed with an intent to be better. Jacob Boehme has done the world a service by being the person with the courage and observance to be able to carry the enormous weight of this one-man show.
4/5 Drag queens crying
Read interview with Jacob Boehme on BLOOD ON THE DANCE FLOOR here
BLOOD ON THE DANCE FLOOR is showing as part of the Big World, Up Close series at Arts Centre Melbourne, August 20-21. Tickets can be found here