“The Neighbor’s Grief is Greener”: A Dark Domesticity

By Ezekiel Oliveira

(565 words 4-minute read)

A dreamy, perfect 1950’s housewife stands in the middle of a kitchen, cracking eggs and stirring flour into her bowl. But she isn’t making your regular American casserole; she’s cooking up a far bloodier dish. She dashes the pot on the ground, flooding the kitchen with blood.

Emanuella Amichai’s tasty dance-theatre piece, The Neighbor’s Grief is Greener presents four archetypal 1950’s women practising survival techniques in the face of the patriarchy. The women we see here are as vulnerable as plucked chickens; as sexually exploited as the women dominated by Trump in the infamous ‘Grab her by the pussy’ video. But can we really expect the experiences of women from 60 years ago to resonate today?

Meirav Elchadef, Ayala Bresler-Nardi, Merav Dagan and Julie Nesher are the four Stepford Wives surviving and dying at the hands of Jeremie Elffasyin. The man seems unbothered, relaxed and detached from the unfolding slaughter as he tunes in to a vintage radio, scanning the kitchen, unaffected.

Fag in mouth, one of the four ladies butters a chicken with indifference and disrespect. In the same way, men speak of women as birds. The plucked, naked chicken is tossed around the floor violently, leaving behind feelings of disgust. The woman bangs her head against the kitchen table. She’s like a blow-up rubber doll, dehumanised and reduced to an object.

The objectification of women and the way they are silenced persists when she morphs into a vulnerable and obedient Marilyn Monroe. Stripping off her clothes, she lip syncs an original interview with Monroe in which the iconic legend pouts and wiggles but is rendered speechless to the point of death.

A third woman walks on stage, an orange bucket on her head, and performs a headstand inside it. Unable to see, she blindly spreads her legs. She is quite powerless, ripe for the plucking by any man who wants to feel her crotch. Is she colluding in abiding by man-made rules about the way women must present themselves or is hers a desperate survival strategy?

This is a show with a retro appeal, but while these desperate housewives might look like a relic of the past, in the age of #MeToo we know that many women are still victims of sexual exploitation and violence.

Bucket lady makes a second appearance presenting the perfect sponge cake. The apron doesn’t fit through her silly bucket head; nevertheless, she keeps trying to please the man. Things turn nastier still: in this kitchen, the man rapes one woman, feeling her thighs and rubbing his crotch against her vulnerable, horizontal body. It is business as usual for him.

There is amusing chatter across the table, but the words become inaudible towards the end of each sentence, leaving only specific words like “pregnant” and “thank you” clear. These women are on a mission to please: domesticated and dominated and ultimately left silenced. The man has the upper hand, diminishing and abusing the female intellect and body with no pity or respect and ensuring a woman’s place is in the kitchen.

The Neighbor’s Grief is Greener by Emanuella Amichai, 23-24 of January with M1 Singapore Fringe Festival at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.

Ezekiel Oliveira is a choreographer and dancer. Originally from Portugal, he has performed in Europe with Tamzin Fitzgerald, Hofesh Schechter, Stephan Koplowitz and Fleur Darkin amongst others. He choreographed; Skin – A Choreographic Response for Singapore Art Museum. Vent for Maya Dance Theatre, ONWARDS for NAFA and more recently Punch Me for The Next Generation – da:ns festival. He writes extensively about dance in Singapore at FiveLines.

This review was written as part of the Lyn Gardner Theatre Criticism Training Program, An Initiative by the National Arts Council, managed by ArtsEquator.com

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