“Don’t be a sissy.” It’s a familiar rebuke. But what if you are? This new drama digs deep into the queer side of sissy. The play starts in the fairground, of course, where all freaks belong. It ends on the battlefield.
“Roll up, roll up!” intones the announcer. But is Sissy a boy or a girl?
Nando Messias, who wrote and performed the play, explains that he is fascinated by the idea of the freak, the person that doesn’t fit. He sets out to explore why the male body is subject to abuse when it casts itself in the feminine.
We follow Sissy’s journey from obstetrician’s callipers to adolescent trauma and beyond. “In every town I am attacked,” Sissy says. We pass through emotions from unvoiced despair to screaming rage and operatic exultation. The minimal props and subdued lighting add to the emotional isolation. But there are tender moments too in the slow, seductive unwrapping of new shoes.
Sissy’s body is telling the story physically alongside – and almost independently – of the script. It folds, unravels, or resolves into a grotesque statue. At times it hangs like a crucifix in a bent tree. It curls and crumples vertically into a cardboard box. Or a plume of white smoke rises from Sissy’s mouth.
The audience is invited in stages to hurl its abuse, which is the only part that breaks the artifice. We’re an empathetic crowd and are definitely rooting for Sissy.
Towards the end, we see Sissy pulling the feathers from a fluff ball like they were dandelion seeds. Operatic crescendos provide the soundtrack. The bloody denouement is Greek tragedy but also a triumph of Sissy’s strength.
Shoot The Sissy is an extraordinary achievement of physical theatre, beautifully evoked. We are already waiting for Nando’s next performance in Brighton.
Marlborough Theatre, Thursday 9th March 2017
Words by Mike Aiken
Photos by Holly Revell