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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Orgy of Tolerance, Jan Fabre review

Published in The Guardian.

Orgy of Tolerance

Tramway, Glasgow
3 out of 5

If I say this latest piece by Belgian iconoclast Jan Fabre is banal, it could give the wrong impression. After all, there aren't many shows this side of the Jim Rose Circus that feature an actor stripping naked and inserting a rifle up his arse. Neither is it common to see a man having full-frontal sex with the revolving spokes of a bicycle. After such scenes, you are little perturbed by the Easter weekend imagery of Jesus Christ balancing a full-size crucifix on his hand, while being cast as a supermodel by a vacuous fashion photographer.

This is not shock for shock's sake, however. In this episodic collage, en route to London's Spill festival, Fabre and his athletic company are making the connection between masturbation and consumerism. Theirs is a vision of a society dedicated to instant gratification, one in which sexual stimulation is on the same orgasmic continuum as the fetishisation of high-end goods. While they're at it, they suggest this me-generation indulgence results in anything from casual racism to out-and-out slavery.

Fabre expresses these ideas with considerable visual flair, whether it's a Blue Danube waltz of Lidl supermarket trolleys or the Olympic wanking competition that opens the show. At its best, Orgy of Tolerance creates surreal yet loaded metaphors, such as the sexual coupling of a luxury leather couch and a designer handbag, and the women who give painful birth to bags of sweets, tins of baked beans and cans of lager.

So far, so vivid: if only Fabre's politics were not so commonplace. It's not just that his vision of the idle rich is out of kilter with our recessionary times, it's that his insight into the superficiality of retail therapy is a good 20 years too late. Despite the sound and fury, the show is without satirical bite.

© Mark Fisher, 2009

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