'This Is An Art Attack' review - Reading Fringe Festival

Dame La Reine and The Reinettes delivered their show 'This Is An Art Attack' as part of the Reading Fringe Festival - it is a feminist and intersectional triumph.

Billed as "Get ready for the Monet shot! The Mona Lisa. Girl with the Pearl Earring. That naked chick riding a clam. Women are great to paint, but where are all the great women painters? Join the Reinettes for burlesque, art, comedy and much more as we place female art where it belongs: centre stage." I looked forward to seeing this and how it would be presented.

Each Reinette had been given a brief to create a performance in response to a piece of visual art of their choice - this resulted in powerful and unexpected interpretations. Particularly as some of the Reinettes modified the brief to respond to their own self portrait, lyrics from a song, poetry, a self-made mannequin and art by male artists. Initially I was a little disappointed that it wasn't exclusively about established but lesser known female artists, given the promotional description but it was more significant that each performer had made highly personal choices which resulted in overarching themes of empowerment, freedom, defiance, and acceptance.

Using multimedia, each performance was preceded or bookended by an introduction to the piece, often a video interview in which the Reinette explained what art they had chosen and why.

The performances were sometimes burlesque routines, sometimes not and included theatre, dance, spoken word and performance art - simultaneously vulnerable yet powerful, exposed yet inviolable. The Reinettes have created a show that has evolved beyond traditional definitions to become something profound. Maybe 'This Is An Art Attack' is hard to define because the performers looked into their souls and showed us the beauty and depth of human existence - which includes trans, queer, gender fluidity, motherhood, girl power and body positivity.

'This Is An Art Attack' is also a political show that attacked austerity, the closure of surestart children centres, pink stinks, body shaming, domestic violence and transphobia.

Although it was long (2 and a half hours...and it overran) I eagerly awaited each act who all presented something enlightening, with dances to great combinations of music. I was buzzing in the interval unsure how they could deliver any more in the second half but they did. There were many highlights but my personal favourites were the powerful parent routine to Kate Bush's 'Breathing', the response to Roy Lichtenstein's 'Crying Girl' / pop art, the recited poem on gender reassignment surgery, The Hairy Scary Vagina or the Devil in a Fright, the dance with the mannequin on control disguised as love, the deconstruction of James Brown's 'It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World', pretty little psycho, and Dame La Reine's ultimate Barbie and My Little Pony - Fuck You to gender stereotypes for girls.

'This Is An Art Attack' is a long show and I have some niggles but it is a significant success. It's feminist, it's empowering, it's inclusive and it deserves many more performances (so I can see it again and bring my friends). It should tour.

Heartfelt congratulations to Dame La Reine who got engaged at the end of the show!

(c) Wendy Thomson 2017

'This Is An Art Attack' by Dame La Reine and the Reinettes
performed on Thursday 20th July 2017
The Olympia Ballroom, Reading
as part of Reading Fringe Festival


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