GD Podcast #1: Orley Quick talks gender fluidity, labelling, and feminism

Orley Quick has worked with various choreographers and companies, including Robbie Synge, Saffron Dodds-Smith, Hagit Yakira, Emily Jeffries and Big Sisters. She currently teaches at Lewisham Southwark College, whilst continuing to pursue choreographic opportunities.

Her works include ‘The Colony’ (2016), Discombobulated (2016), Attack of the Giant Killer Alien Insect (2016), Still Here (2015), and Constant Nostalgia (2014).

Orley Quick is an intrigue. As We Like It, created with and performed by the Hairy Heroines, shown at Resolution 2017, was many things – playful, adventurous, with a strong thematic core of ‘gender fluidity’. This was truly an amalgamation of dance, theatrical techniques, and most importantly, creative freedom.

I highlight creative freedom, for what I saw could not be categorised, and could only have been created through a calculated yet laissez-faire approach. A three-man cast – José Diogo Fernandes de Jesus, Tyrrell Foreshaw, and Elliot Minogue-Stone – cross-dress, and intimately intimidate us with locked stares, amorous and sultry movement, and cleverly conducted text.

In ‘As We Like It’ we are trying, very hard, to get to the bottom of how we see and express gender in ourselves, and how we interpret gender in others.  We aim to identify the gender rules we have inherited, we’ve been taught and have worked with all our lives: and shake ‘em up a bit. 

Tangled up in suits, wigs, bags, wheels, belts, scarves with play, conflict, sexy moves, rhythms, words and scores: we invite you to insert yourselves into the world of the Hairy Heroines.

The first few scenes saw all three members gyrating and thigh-slapping – creating beats and rhythms. Enter the first hint of masculinity at play. The alpha-male syndrome. What began as a playful and seductive series of thigh-slapping became a competition. Who can create the best rhythm? Who can create the loudest sound? An escalation ensued, turning playfulness into a full blown fight – actual physical, audible slaps between José and Tyrrell. Elliot, an uninterested bystander, elegantly glided on stage.

There’s a conscious decision to explore stereotypical traits we attribute to our genders, and this was a perfect moment to analyse. The need to overpower, to conquer, all whilst being effeminate, and seductive. A true exploration of gender. All but in the first few minutes of this piece. It set the tone.

Graham Watts described the three performers as dynamic. And that they were. Each exhibiting a different type of strength. Whether it’s Elliot’s ability to pander to the audience’s reactions to his spoken text – “It’s fun being handy” he jests, describing work tools in a suggestive manner (‘camping it up’ as Orley gleefully suggests); or Tyrrell’s incredibly powerful and graceful sultry solo performance, locking eyes with many members of the audience and drawing nervous laughter; or José’s agonising screams that came out of nowhere. The three had a surprising mastery of audience interaction. The house lights were brought up at a point to truly make the audience part of the performance.

It quickly became an uncomfortable performance. I seem to yet again find myself battling with many questions in a theatrical space. What is this piece? The purpose was clear, yet the innate need to classify was overwhelming. We witness elements of physical theatre (much to Orley’s gripe as she declared not having a physical theatre background), the use of spoken text and movement, the use of playfulness, the use of comedy, the use of elegant dance. An amalgamation of ideas, somehow fitting together to make this a piece one has to continue to unravel.

As We Like It is an anomaly. It demands a certain fresh-eyed viewing of it; so we can laugh with the cast, and be taken aback at the sudden injection of random, of play, of fear, of power, and of gender fluidity. This was indeed a deconstruction of gender – a comic exploration of its many manifestations; and an attempt at making us scrutinise gender ideas we accept de facto. And it works.

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