Image: Nando Messias @ Brighton Pride for andwhatarts by Aristotelis Karavas
This August CDS Artist Member Nando Messias was in residency at CDS for a Staycation. Here is a text about the development of the next stage in The Sissy’s Progress:
So this is the first time I’m writing publicly about my new performance, Shoot the Sissy. It’s a full-length, solo piece, based on that most suggestive phenomenon, the freak show. As you can tell from the title, it’s about the sissy, a genderqueer figure who inhabits that somewhat elusive space existing between male and female, between masculine and feminine.
I’m so excited to be announcing the piece here. Let me give you the context. It’s part of my long-term investigation into the sissy, which began in 2008 with Sissy!, a dance-theatre duet created in collaboration with Biño Sauitzvy. There I delved into the creative and conceptual universe of this self-inspired character with no real constraints. There was no prototype for the sissy then. I had free reign to invent, mould, imagine and develop my own world of gender deviancy in performance. Perhaps it was the contrast with Biño’s body that enabled me to start delineating the boundaries of a sissy territory. The creative process here consisted of a series of questions such as: what/who is the sissy? how does he move? how is he perceived by others? what are the markers of his body? where does he stand socially, politically, historically and artistically? I found answers in and through my own body. And with those answers, I was then ready to take the next step.
What followed was The Sissy’s Progress. In that second performance, I took the sissy out onto the streets, an act of defiance. It originated as a response to a violent incident of homophobic abuse I had suffered on the streets. As an expression of resilience, this piece could not, in my view, have taken any other form than the one it did. It was a public act of denunciation against hate crime through the mode of performance. As such, it was a hyperbolic statement, an artistic protest that needed to be made precisely where the original attack had taken place: on the streets themselves. What I found was that in developing and performing The Sissy’s Progress, I was able to reclaim my place on the streets as a sissy. Here, I wore my effeminacy proudly on my sleeve. I paraded it in public with a marching band in tow for all to see and indeed hear.
So in Sissy!, I established what a sissy was in my world and in my imagination. Next, in The Sissy’s Progress, I asserted my confidence in this queer identity publicly and protested against violence. I ‘put the sissy on’ and paraded it around. And that brings me to this new piece.
Shoot the Sissy is the third and latest in the series and signals a change in direction. In developing it, my attempt has been to ‘take off’ the artifice, spectacle and polished illusion of femininity. I don’t know exactly what this ‘taking off’ looks like yet. There is some fear, I can tell you, as this territory is unknown. There’s also excitement as I go back into studio.
Chisenhale Dance Space has been very generous in giving me the first of a period of my five weeks of research and development for this new performance. My week as a Staycationer was invaluable. I felt incredibly supported, which is essential at such an early stage of the work. It allowed me to try a few things I was afraid to try.
Shoot the Sissy is all about challenging myself and working outside my comfort zone. The environment at Chisenhale made me feel confident enough to really go there. Now, if you want to know what a sissy working outside his comfort zone might look like, you will have to come and see the show. There will be no spoilers here. Needless to say, I think it’s really something.
Shoot the Sissy premieres at Chelsea Theatre as part of And What? Queer Arts Festival on the 18th of October 2016 with a second performance on the 19th.
Special thanks to Justin Hunt, Natalie Clarke and Nick Murray and all at Chisenhale.
Shoot the Sissy is supported by Arts Council England and developed in partnership with Live Art Development Agency, Queen Mary University of London, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Duckie, Outburst Festival and And What? Arts.