Raucous and uninhibited: Slap and Tickle by Liz Aggiss

Citymoves Dance Agency, Aberdeen
October 22, 2016

Róisín O’Brien

Liz Aggiss’ Slap and Tickle is postmodern pastiche of the finest variety: one hour of playful and anarchically disjointed scenarios, drenched in raucous, uninhibited humour, all of which nonetheless unmasks a very real world of gendered prejudices.

Watching Slap and Tickle is the joy of experiencing a great personality on stage. Not only does Aggiss command the room with her voice, and land each comic moment exactly right, she is master of the moving body. Each shape and line is boldly articulated, each movement a clear gesture to social behaviours, and to media representations of the female body.

Aggiss’ references are dizzyingly numerous: cue vaudevillian light entertainment, children’s shows imparting apparently neutral politics, early films and the reduction of the can-can dancers’ legs into mathematical abstractions. Such an abundance of references allows her to dissect the subtle and not so subtle world of gender politics, mix it up and mash it around, to draw out the threats and repressions implicit in the everyday.

Slap and TicklePhoto Joe Murray
Slap and Tickle
Photo Joe Murray

Aggiss’ assemblage of props and costumes are bizarrely surprising and inventive. One moment in particular sees coins appear from crevices un-thought of, much to the audience’s delight.

The American presidential race looms so large in everyday perception it’s almost redundant to reference it. Nevertheless, Slap and Tickle is a welcome attack on Trump’s ‘grab ‘em by the pussy’.

For example, the strength of collage can lie in its ability to juxtapose two completely different things, to uniquely highlight an unseen connection in the everyday. Aggiss’ conflation, then, of Doris Day‘s ‘Whatever will be, will be’ with examples of demeaning sexism and physical abuse, perfectly highlights the link between the supposedly benign facade of ‘locker room talk’, with the very real, resultant mistreatment of women.

In Slap and Tickle, the female body is a bombastic adult playground for Aggiss, its folds, bumps, and malfunctions prompting both carnivalesque romp and sharp critique.