Melbourne Fringe 2016

Can’t Be Tamed, Melbourne Fringe 2016

0 Comments 04 October 2016

Words by Fabrice Wilmann 

How fitting that a performance in homage to Miley Cyrus be, in and of itself, an absolute and utter train wreck. Can’t Be Tamed is a show that attempts to delve into the consciousness of the controversial pop star, but in so doing has presented us with a hallucinatory mindscape that has failed to transfer to the stage. The show is described as a ‘psycho-trash verbatim mash up’ by Director Justin Nott, and aims to provide an ironic insight into the life of the pop queen.

The opening scene between a present-day Miley defying her critics sets a feminist tone for the entire performance. This is soon shattered by the pornographic spectre of fame that lingers throughout the show: a man with a black animal mask obscuring his identity. Is he part of Miley’s subconsciousness or is he the manifestation of the proverbial ‘fame monster’? The audience is left to interpret for themselves.

This sinister figure emerges when a young Miley auditions for the Hannah Montana show – he is the one on the couch that will decide her fate. What begins as an innocent Southern, knee-slapping jig (just so we don’t forget Miley’s roots – her godmother is Dolly Parton after all) slowly begins to morph into something altogether more carnal. The sexualisation of Miley begins early – songs by Britney and Beyoncé begin to play and Miley starts grinding and twerking. The masked man watches on, legs splayed.

From here, we shift jerkily between different moments in time: a vehement call from Nicki Minaj lambasting Miley for cultural appropriation; a moment of vulnerability as a recording of Miley’s emotional Pablow the Blowfish washes over the audience; a eulogy of Hannah Montana, paying thanks to the girl who had the best of both worlds; and a particularly disturbing scene of the masked man acting in a fatherly manner before erotically spanking Miley without her consent. Thankfully, Miley gets her revenge later in the show, aggressively dry-humping the masked man against his wishes in a moment of sheer triumph.

We also see the birth of the “true” Miley through contemporary dance. She breaks free from the womb of oppression – a metaphor for the patriarchy of the music industry. It is concepts like these that give pause for thought, but overall, Can’t Be Tamed is unable to tether ideas of female defiance, hazards of fame, and the unjustness of an omnipotent patriarchy into one cohesive show. The attempt to capture the ‘hallucinatory’ experience overrides the potential to explore these themes fully, leaving them as disparate asides rather than focal points of a troubled public maturation.

Perhaps the Miley of old would have adored this performance, but really, is that saying much at all?

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