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Stud review at Contact, Manchester – ‘revels in absurdity’

Eilidh MacAskill in Stud at Contact, Manchester Photo: Julia Bauer Eilidh MacAskill in Stud at Contact, Manchester Photo: Julia Bauer

The Queer Contact Festival kicks off with Eilidh MacAskill’s stomp through gender issues, Stud. Contact’s Stage 2 space has been made up to resemble the blueprint of a cabin, from which MacAskill bellows advice on proper horsemanship, while wearing a loaded work belt and trousers with the crotch cut away to reveal her genitals. Freud heavily informs Stud, from its phallic use of carrots, measuring tape and a saw, to the piece’s overt rejection of the psychoanalyst’s phallocentric theories on gender. This is a production which revels in absurdity and constantly challenges its audience.

MacAskill’s performance style is comfortable, allowing her room to manoeuvre around technical hiccups while also playing the room. Influences come from drag performance, with Stud featuring lip-synching and a mash-up approach to gender and pop culture as MacAskill introduces a spread of different characters and their equine friends.

The show does have a tendency to move quickly between set pieces and the intermediary sections feel less cared for, losing the audience a little. Surprisingly – despite phalluses galore – in the end, Stud’s tack is subtle, trusting its audience to get the joke without forcing an interpretation. An indication of MacAskill’s background in live art, the set and design is full of little surprises and its daft, visual gags are its strongest asset, the structure and content of the piece not delivering quite enough to back them up. The piece as a whole though succeeds in flagging up obliquely the nonsenses of gender and sexuality.

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Verdict
Absurd, funny and well-handled exploration of gender – and horsemanship
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