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Guest Blog: Jess Latowicki On SUPER DUPER CLOSE UP

Guest Blog: Jess Latowicki On SUPER DUPER CLOSE UP
Super Duper Close Up

More than any other show Made In China have created, Super Duper Close Up really puts its finger on the gender politics of information overload. It asks not just "What is it like to live in a culture of overload?" but "What does it do to us if that overload is part of a very male gaze"? In particular, what does that do to women?

In order to make the piece, we've had to adapt the way we've always worked, with me conceiving/writing it solo for the first time, and Made In China's co-director, Tim [Cowbury], supporting as dramaturg. It didn't really feel like a show for a male-female writing partnership!

And this was always fiercely my project - I don't think Tim would ever have agreed to kick off research by trawling mainstream media for images of violence and sex to make the most (deliberately) disturbing fanzines you've ever seen...

It's tempting to say Super Duper Close Up is a 'single issue' show, but in being a kind of furious distillation of about the last three years of my life, it's also complex and very wide-ranging. Its crosshairs are undeniably trained on my experience as a woman now: half-waving, half-drowning amidst a glittering sea of beauty vlogs, glamour selfies, frozen pouts and desperate smiles.

As the script comically testifies, I did a lot of Googling. A lot of scrolling. But I also wrote and wrote and wrote, wild fantasies and close-to-the-bone autobiography and everything in between. I met academics to talk about the radicalisation of young girls, I met plastic surgeons, I visited a medical research facility exploring sleep disorders. And I thought about family, inherited trauma, learned behaviour, self-improvement, my own anxiety.

I ended up with a 17,000-word monologue that tries to drill into the molten core of this question: how do you go anywhere as a modern woman, if you keep hitting a wall that says you're not allowed to be both feminine and a bold, active protagonist? It's 2018, FFS! Why are we still trying to force women to make the choice between those identities?

Guest Blog: Jess Latowicki On SUPER DUPER CLOSE UP
Super Duper Close Up

A few weeks ago, I brought that bubbling, boiling monologue into a rehearsal room. I pulled it apart with a video designer, a choreographer, and a dancer/camerawoman (is that the best portfolio career you've come across yet? It is for me), and we threw everything we could at the text to find out what would stick.

So now Super Duper Close Up is full of unsettling dance, super sexy video, ridiculous nods to the world of glamour, and perhaps the most amazing dress of all time. OK, two of the most amazing dresses - it's my show, I can wear what I want, thank you very much.

The piece feels urgent because it's about living in a world where everything is virtual, and virtually everything is for sale. This isn't just a question of technology; it's not a piece 'about' Instagram and online shopping, even if these are symptoms of whatever disease modern life has got.

But Super Duper Close Up does speak to a very contemporary form of anxiety, one that's maybe developed sharply this decade fed by social media. The show zooms in on the feeling of being constantly being looked at but never really seen; of always looking but never really seeing.

And as part of this, it explores the poisonous legacy of the male gaze and old gender stereotypes, asking whether we've actually moved beyond these, even in our own selfies and status updates. And asking what it means if our culture fetishises and rewards women for their beauty and suffering.

There is a lot of anger behind those kind of questions, no doubt. Anger is something women sadly still need to fight to be allowed to express. But in Super Duper Close Up it's not without humour, not simply directed outwards or at easy targets.

We could have made a much simpler piece that categorically said: "Men are bad! Boo! Down with the patriarchy!" and "Capitalism is bad! Boo! Down with advertising and social media and the old slogan 'Sex sells'!" We could have made that show, but we didn't want to. The world doesn't need that show. It's more complicated, more screwed up, more embedded than that.

Super Duper Close Up is an attempt to push and prod and move the conversation on. And, of course, to make a compelling and bold new formal experiment along the way. A ravishing, uncomfortably entertaining and funny spectacle that smacks people in the head when they were looking the other way and sends them out not with answers but questions, questions, questions.

Super Duper Close Up at The Yard Theatre 13-24 November

Watch a trailer below

Photo credit: John Hunter at RULER

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From This Author Guest Blog: Jess Latowicki