La Donna è Mobile

Nominated for Total Theatre Award
Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013
Winner of Wildfire Critics’ Choice Award
Ignite Festival 2013
Shortlisted for most exciting emerging company
Fest Live 2013
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Words are no longer enough

The body must now speak. And what will it say? This is about the private and the perverse…an experiment…an investigation into the murkier parts of the human psyche, where the inexplicable becomes visible. A sex-starved housewife hankers for release, a beautiful woman with horned hands shreds her own skin, a painted lady performs tricks for a thirsty public and all the while something greater looks on, observing.

La Donna è Mobile is a look at womanhood in all its deformity. Inspired by the extraordinary photographs of hysterics, taken at the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris at the end of the 19th century, RemoteControl use muscular choreography, a few daft antics and a whole lot of the peculiar to plunge headfirst into this visceral world. Farewell to the unity of time and place, let compulsion and dark desire prevail.

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Hysteria - a medical diagnosis that no longer exists but in its time was reserved for women.

We became fascinated by photographs taken during Jean-Martin Charcot’s reign at the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris at the end of the 19th Century. The pictures show women patients mid-hysterical fit. It was believed that the extreme contortions of the body were triggered by the innermost passions of the soul.

The show will explore how this psychological illness manifested itself upon the body and will investigate the possibility that involuntary movement is really an expression of an internal state.

It felt like a kind of worm stuck in the throat

If I say it

as I know how to say it

you will see my present body

fly into pieces and under ten thousand

notorius aspects
a new body

will be assembled

in which you will never again
be able

to forget me

What the press is saying

A Younger Theatre ★★★★

A creature resembling a woman is wrapped in plastic sheets, her eyes are ablaze with the sort of curiosity you see from a cat, but there’s a darkness there too. Wrapped in a bow, you’d think she was a present, a buy-your-own-vampire. The first ten minutes of La Donna è Mobile by Remote Control Theatre are a chilling and haunting affair, where you genuinely question if you’re going to leave the performance in one piece.

This woman, creature-like and vampire-like, spits blood and bounds about the space with a gaggle of onlookers documenting her movements and interactions. In the Summerhall Demonstration Room, with seats that tower above a clinical performance space, it’s easy to see how this could be deemed a performance experiment.

For the rest of La Donna è Mobile we see women who are chaotic in their release of screams and energy, which bounds around the space. There’ are some striking images put together: a woman with antlers attached to her hands, a cloth that looks like a heart or baby is extracted from a woman and beaten repeatedly. You could easily dismiss this as an exercise of heightened performance devices, but with every eye-flutter and sound uttered from the ensemble there’s purpose and a haunting image that is left in its place. There’s a relentless energy and whilst it isn’t apparent through narrative or theme to give an easy ride for the spectator, the visceral experience is breathtaking.

It’s a shame that Remote Control Theatre didn’t with its Total Theatre Award Nomination when there is so much undeniable power and promise in its work. They’re the first company I’ve seen to use nudity with a sense of power like a punch to the gut, and where there might be a missing connection between the source material and the work received, there’s an undeniable beauty and power.

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The Stage Must see!

A wide-eyed woman, packaged in plastic like a life-sized doll, greets the audience as they walk into Remote Control’s latest show. It’s an arresting and thought-provoking image, but one that becomes a whole lot more potent when the doll suddenly expels all the pent-up anger and frustrations she was holding in.

The Lecoq-trained physical theatre company describe their piece as “a look at womanhood in all its deformity.” The inspiration for the piece came from 19th Century photographs of ‘hysterical’ women taken in a Parisian mental health hospital – hence the jolty, muscular choreography and wacky, confused-looking doctors.

However, while this piece looks at women at their weakest, it is also a celebration of our strengths. Comprised of a series of surprising little sketches about sex, oppression and liberation, this show is inspiring, and totally inspired.

La Donna e Mobile (the woman is fickle), may give the impression of being total chaos with its head-torches, swimming caps, frantic dance moves and feats of physical strength. But the longer you spend with Remote Control, the more you realise just how carefully crafted the company’s wonderful show really is.

If you liked visceral drama The Shit/La Merda last year, this funny, wild, touching and empowering performance will be right up your street.

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Fest Magazine ★★★★

RemoteControl may have devised this scalpel-sharp piece on an isolated Norwegian island, but they’ve certainly found the perfect home for it in Summerhall’s clinical green-lit Demonstration Room.

When we enter, a woman is standing in a see-through evidence bag neatly tied with a bow. She is, we are told by a troupe of mincingly earnest doctors, Subject A. She’s also a little bit savage. Spitting black bile into her zip-lock container, she is finally unleashed to roam and claw, the bag becoming a plastic divider behind which she can be observed.

Part of the impact of this piece is its surprise, but without spoiling the torrent of fascinating, sensual and disturbing images that follow, RemoteControl let loose the archetypal wild woman; her spirit gradually possessing those around her until a new creature is hammered out. Themes of rebirth and reclaiming the body flicker in electric fronds round the choreography; they fit, loll and slowly curl into ugly shapes.

The company’s starting point was a series of 19th century photographs of women suffering from “hysteria”, and uncomfortable echoes arise throughout of the past treatment of women in asylums, their bodies scrutinised, electric-shocked, stripped of autonomy.

Benign eccentricity cuts an entry point through which we can peep into RemoteControl’s world, but behind the humour lies a confrontational, barbed edge and a bucketload of attitude. Not that we would wish exile on anyone, but please let this company maroon themselves again to see what they come up with next.

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The Skinny ★★★★

Remote Control perform La Donna è Mobile in the Demonstration Room, which is a very appropriate environment. The medical study of subject A who is encased in plastic unleashes a series of seemingly unconnected outbursts of ‘mad’ behaviour.

Interpreting this as a piece of absurdist physical theatre, it is natural and expected that it is not supposed to make sense. Moans of pleasure, hip thrusts that at once resemble epileptic convulsions and yoga exercises – these and more make up this exploration of insanity.

The title not only points to the infamous aria from Rigoletto, but can be translated as ‘the woman is fickle’. Amid this discourse on madness, it seems intriguing that gender should come into it. Perhaps it is accidental; it is hard to tell in the context of absurdist theatre. Why would it be the woman that is fickle? Women have not long had ‘equal’ rights to men, and a great deal of the behaviours displayed could be considered normal by today’s standards – at least in the context of orgasms in the bedroom.

Overall, this is a fascinating piece that leaves the scent of strawberry jam hanging in the air.

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We are very happy to announce that RemoteControl has been nominated for Total Theatre's "Shows by an Emerging Company" award. Read more...