REVIEW: Body So Fluorescent Explores Persona, Performativity, and (Heated) Words Between Friends
Just because what happens at the club is forgotten, doesn’t mean it’s forgiven. The lights come up on the morning after a messy night. No one is quite sure what happened but one thing is clear: Gary and Desirée are not friends anymore. But who’s to blame? Is it the small town white boy and his alter ego of a boisterous, “ghetto”-talking, dance floor-hogging, black woman named Shanice? Or is it the supportive best friend – a woman of colour – for not speaking up sooner?
Body So Fluorescent navigates the complexity of its narrative politics by highlighting the ways in which we take up space. Although the stage is occupied only by sole actor Amanda Cordner, as well as the atmosphere-inducing lights and music, the setting of the club becomes a tangible avenue for this conceptual terrain.
The show, co-created by Cordner and David di Giovanni of Madonnanera, takes the audience on a backwards descent into chaotic introspection. The script holds nothing back – though the characters seem to wish it would. Cordner stumbles on stage, dishevelled and still in last night’s clothes, seemingly lit by the spotlight of the morning’s regrets. I identify Cordner as a black woman and assume her character at that time to be the same. Many people have a drunken party alter ego, and that’s all Shanice seemed to be. It isn’t until almost halfway through the piece, when the fight takes place and Cordner is flipping between Shanice and Desirée and screaming to the former to take their “little white boy ass” home that I realize my mistake. The calmer, remorseful person recounting the night before as Shanice isn’t a black woman, but in fact a white gay man who got carried away with this persona and was in too deep. This revelation starts the wheel spinning on the show’s main themes. By taking on what characteristics he can of a black woman, Gary literally occupies physical space in a way Desirée cannot because Shanice is there. Gary, however, can leave that space whenever he chooses. He can take off the weave and the clothes, turn off the voice and the attitude, and retain his slot in society as a white man. Desirée cannot. This realization explodes in both of their faces as she is forced to reconcile with the direction their whole friendship has taken.
Body So Fluorescent doesn’t tiptoe around heat of the moment angry lash outs, or the racy details of nightlife. It’s blunt and in your face, but it all remains grounded in the reality of the characters thanks to Cordner’s performance. Her biting characterizations of Gary, Shanice, and Desirée tackle their various perspectives superbly. Her code-switching is sharp both verbally and physically, forcing the characters to relive their regrets and reconcile in real time. This back and forth is only further highlighted by the (uncredited) lighting design, which mixes between bold mood lighting and realistic settings that help us transition between patchy flashbacks and the glaring present day reality.
Nevertheless, Body So Fluorescent is a ride. Every tangent felt like it was presenting me with a rug to stand on, only for the next one to rip it right out from under me with its new revelations.
Mae Smith is an actor from the GTA. She is currently studying Dramatic Arts at Brock University in St. Catharines. Although she concentrates in performance, she is interested in theatre as a whole and all its parts.