Review: HIGH STEAKS, VAULT Festival

ELOINA’s Week 1 hit HIGH STEAKS returns to close out the VAULT Festival

“What about the outside?”

I missed the award-winning HIGH STEAKS in VAULT’s first week this year, so the opportunity to catch its return in its final week was one I found hard to resist after some strong recommendations. Truth be told, the idea of a show about labia-shaming and cosmetic labiaplasty hadn’t really appealed to me, a certain squeamishness creeping in for this completely unexplored area for me.

But where else are you going to test your boundaries but in the dark and dank spaces under Waterloo Station and since I saw a show with a naked guy last week, it’s only right to balance the books. And as with Adam Scott-Rowley’s work, the nudity is just so matter of fact, just another part of the clowning arsenal here, that it becomes no big deal.

You never quite forget it in HIGH STEAKS though, as queer, feminist performance-artist and clown ELOINA’s work is predicated on encouraging us to reassess our relationship with our bodies, especially the intimate parts, and specfically here the vulva. Whilst rattling off shocking statistics about the cosmetic procedures available and taken up, she calls instead for a celebration of our differences.

Recorded excerpts from interviews with a wide cross-section of people opens out the scope, whilst contributions from ELOINA’s mother also makes it intensely personal. The hanging strips of steak are eye-opening in the extreme (there’s my squeamishness again) but to their enormous credit, ELOINA and director Louise Orwin cultivate an atmosphere of real inclusiveness in which to potentially a whole new way of seeing one’s own body, whether you have labia or not.

Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
HIGH STEAKS is booking at VAULT Festival until 19th March

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