THE PASSION OF LADY VENDREDI
A REVIEW BY RUDY LOEWE
Walking into the theatre, I knew that there would be no separation between performers and audience. As people came in not knowing where to stand, sticking to the edge of the room, the performers were dancing, dotted around the space.
Soon into the show Lady Vendredi announced that we were part of a ritual, we were being taken on a journey. Before she even said it, I was trying to place the words in my mouth: the feeling of being at a sermon.
And we smiled as the performers sang, there was a relaxed atmosphere, one in which we were being cared for. Daughters were invited to the front of the stage to have a spot of paint put on their faces. We were lulled lovingly into calm.
But as it continued, tension seemed to grow in the room. People in the audience began to realise that we weren’t immune to being sucked in.
At the centre of this performance was black womanhood. Lady Vendredi stands on stage arms spread wide, looking like an Afrofuturist goddess, covered in jewels. But soon she is transformed into a character in a pink dress and wig, sucking on lollipops and covered in blood. The juxtaposition of these two characters seemed poignant to me, the expectations on womanhood – a babyish sex object – a warping of blackness, twisted.
As things went on I laughed at what I saw as us, the audience, being trolled. A disgruntled middle aged white man next to me seemed to be wondering what the fuck it was all about. But that just made me enjoy it even more. There was something unashamed about it that I couldn’t help but like.
Participation was mandatory. The only moment when I felt truly uncomfortable was when we were made to split into pairs of men and women. As a non binary person I knew this was going to be particularly awkward. So I found a random man and told him that he would be doing the woman’s part. The men were then told to get on our knees, putting our heads to the women’s bellies and ask for forgiveness. Despite my own gender feelings, I laughed at the thought of all the men in the room paying to be made to get on their knees and apologise.
Towards the end of the show Lady Vendredi had her hands up in a white woman’s hair, ruffling it all over the place and saying “gimme some of that silky white girl hair”. I felt that this was a joke that only some of the audience would get, and that was my feeling overall. If you know, you know.
The Passion of Lady Vendredi was complex in its emotions – creating love, laughter and tension with a tinge of something quite sordid. The audience wasn’t given the privilege of enjoying a performance from a comfortable distance. It was immersive, messy and involved. It felt powerful to see a black woman holding space and giving no fucks.
There was something that felt incredibly punk about Lady Vendredi refusing to apologise for her presence, terrorising the people who had come to see the show and not caring what they thought about it. Something was unraveling in the space and it felt refreshing because black people are rarely given a space to unravel in a way that is messy and loose. And the whole show was steeped in blackness. I don’t know if everyone in the audience knew it, but I smiled to myself often throughout the show feeling like it was a work made for people like me, not a feeling I often get at the theatre.
When the show ended Lady Vendredi said “If any of this antic vision offends you, remember that we are just a mirror” and that’s what I felt. The uncomfortable feeling some members of the audience seemed to be experiencing, were but a tiny fraction of the micro aggressions that black women, femme and non-binary people face every day. It was a subversion of power and I am not sure that everyone liked it.
The show highlighted gender roles, racism and sexism, in a way that remained playful. The costumes were those of an Afrofuturist dystopia; re-appropriated boxing gloves as shoes and barbies for jewellery.
In the true essence of a god, Lady Vendredi brought joy and wrath. Her final costume was that of a priest, not a white christian priest, but a black priestess with a painted white face, hat, two tailed coat and a cane. The kind of priestess who could bring us back together, all of us holding hands in a circle. I left with my belly full, feeling like I had been taken to church, a church for people like me.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DIMITRI DJURIC
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Rudy Loewe’s practice includes drawing comics, illustrations, zines and prints.
These mediums are befitting to their work as they allow for greater visibility to a wider audience.
Rudy’s intention is to take complex ideas and narratives, drawing them out into more accessible and digestible formats. Using comedy and satire Rudy’s work subverts dominant power structures and starts difficult conversations around intersectionality.
Often using comic book format Rudy’s work centres people of colour celebrating and chronicling their stories. Racism; gender; sexuality; disability and mental health are all key themes within Rudy’s practice. They uses a variety of mediums throughout and recurring motifs to explore family history, black history, Diaspora and trauma.
Rudy Loewe’s practice often involves working with archival material and with other practitioners such as historians and archivists. The pedagogical side of Rudy’s practice has been inspired by theorists such as bell hooks and Paulo Friere and their ideas around community and learning.
Rudy’s work aims to engage those who consider themselves outside of the art world in art practice. Community is an integral part of Rudy Loewe’s work, which is why another facet of their practice is workshop facilitation and the invaluable conversations that come out of this.
They/ them pronouns.
Rudy is currently available for work including custom illustrations, murals, and teaching sessions.
If you would like to talk to them about work
contact: firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line ‘Work: (your message)’, and some details about what you’re interested in.