“Masculinity is dead,” Christeene roars, “It’s over.” Well, glad that’s settled. If someone could put the final nail in the constructed gender coffin, I’d like to think it would be the always radical and ever welcoming Christeene. Cabaret/theatre performer and gender eradicator Christeene has returned to Edinburgh, to perform “inside a castle’s butthole” (her apt description of the dank, dark basement vibe of Underbelly Cowgate). Get there early to the all-standing space to nab a spot near the stage, if you dare.
Much like her 2014 show The Christeene Machine, there are bare bottoms, massaged assholes, explosive dance moves, ear-drum rattling beats, and quiet moments of contemplation. She performs musical numbers with a thrash, soul/funk, and even pop-lullaby vibe. The impossible-not-to-dance-to crowd favorite Fix My Dick is included.
Back-up dancers, T-Gravel and Dawg Elf, flit in and out of elaborate but makeshift costumes and hurl themselves across the small stage with wild abandon. Fisting, rimming, flipping, swirling–they are perpetual sex motion machines.
As the room heats up, literally and figuratively, sweat pours off the performers. Christeene’s neon make-up begins to create neon tear-streaks down her cheeks. With the rising temperature, Christeene encourages the audience to take their clothes off. A few people did so. Though it may not be surprising they were some of the more conventionally beautiful (there were some six-pack abs on display).
Christeene’s message has always been that we all have “ponies” inside us that reflect who we are and all our ponies are beautiful. So even those six-pack abs have a pony who is welcome. But that Christeene creates a space for all misfits, inside and out, to gather has always been her strength. She may shout at a camera in her face with “What the fuck you doing in my face?” but quickly follow it with “I love you, assholes.”
To say Trigger feels more choreographed than previous work, may be understating the physical performative anarchy that is often on display in these shows. Yet there is a creative tightness to the consistent orange neon accent colour that keeps appearing on fans, costumes, and faces to an evolution of Christeene from howling high priestess at the start of the show to a bit more bedtime Doris Day at the end. A bathmat cut to be a hat is oddly fetching and demonstrates the dumpster-diving chic of Christeene’s character. She can make beauty and magic out of any old gubbins. It is a pleasure to discover at every show what she has in store.
But no matter the external creative trappings, Christeene musing about identity and ponies while gingerly rubbing her crotch with her long fingernails remains an indelible blend of sexual provocation, performance audacity, and casual beckoning.
After Christeene wrings every last ounce of heart, nerve, and sinew from her dancers and herself, she dons a ruffled bed jacket and sings a gentle love song. She implores the audience to take care of the artists in their lives. Right back at you, Christeene.