Acephalous Monster comes to Leeds

So what exactly is an extreme performance artist? Ron Athey, apparently.

The performer is coming to the UK for the first time since 2014 to showcase Acephalous Monster. It’s inspired in part by the secret society of Acéphale, the 1930s anti-fascist review and magazine published by philosopher Georges Bataille. The Acéphale, the eponymous figure of the headless man is a powerful symbol of radical transformation.

The show promises projections, readings, lectures and vocal/percussive choreography. It promises monsters coming to life using opera, wigs and masks. It promises interactions with sexy video projections of beasts. Essentially, it promises everything I really don’t think I’ve ever seen before – or particularly want to see, for that matter.

I’m seeing the show when it comes to Leeds, and I really hope it isn’t as I expect. “Pioneering S&M practice” is set to be in full use. I have a feeling my eyes are about to be opened wide.

Athey says: “I love working caricatures: going through all these wigs, trying to manipulate my body with different looks, being fatter or skinnier, more feminine. I still play with padding and corsets and things. But to me it’s just normal that someone gets penetrated. The performance is a political satire of sorts with an ‘eat the rich’ section to celebrate the beheading of Louis XVI, who also happens to be a vampire.”

I’ve not heard of Ron Athey before, but he’s best known for boundary-pushing body mutilation. He’s created solo performances, collaborations and experimental theatre and opera. There’s no doubt about it, the guy is daring to be different. The question I have is whether it’s a different type of theatre anyone really wants to see.

Catch Acephalous Monster in Leeds at CLAY, Leeds.

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