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Tango, BDSM and the SS

There will be a special Q&A with the director and cast of
DISTRACTION CAMP
following the performance @ BATS on Thursday 2nd September.

Media Release:


Tango, BDSM and the SS – DISTRACTION CAMP


Tango, BDSM and SS role-play may seem an odd combination to feature in a theatre production, but Distraction Camp, a hit in Christchurch last year, and playing at BATS (Aug 31 – Sept 11), suggests they are remedies for a shared dis-ease.

Tango has, in recent times, been establishing a widespread and dedicated following in New Zealand. Clubs are sprouting up all over the place. Enthusiasts are even travelling from city to city in search of new tango experiences. Wellington, like Christchurch, has a thriving tango community. So does Geraldine.

This is extraordinary. Not only because of New Zealanders’ traditional reticence towards physical expression or displaying desire, unless it is on the sports field, but also because sport is usually the only pastime that moves people around New Zealand.

Why is tango moving people, here, now?

Free Theatre has been exploring this as part of an ongoing project that reconsiders acting in theatre and life. Distraction Camp, the follow-up to the award-winning Faust Chroma, uses the theatrical role-play of Argentine tango to explore the idea that it is in performance, on the stage, that people truly start to live.

The devising process was initiated by director Peter Falkenberg with a provocative premise: induced constantly to consume entertainments that revolve endlessly around distractions and commodities, we have become like the Muselmen – as the walking dead were known in the Nazi concentration camp – resigned to a way of living without meaning, obese yet starved of real nourishment.

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Perhaps the fascination with tango is a response to the restrictive, conformist and repressive nature of this consumer society. A way to act up, and to act out different fantasies that take people away from the drudgery of daily routine where we work and consume our way to a standstill.

And here lies also a connection with BDSM (also thriving) and the ongoing fascination with Nazi symbolism in New Zealand.

Maybe the role-play theatre of BDSM or playing Nazis and prisoners at a costume party, like the overt theatricality of tango, are an attempt to escape the ‘distraction camp’ of consumer society and search for something more authentic, more alive, less nice and safe. Less known.

In her essay ‘Fascinating Fascism’, Susan Sontag suggests the rigid role-play of Nazi sadomasochistic fetishism appeals to a society where there is too much ‘freedom’. She says, “The fad for Nazi regalia indicates something quite different: a response to an oppressive freedom of choice in sex (and in other matters), to an unbearable degree of individuality; the rehearsal of enslavement rather than its reenactment”.

Sontag’s article was written in 1974, yet given ongoing Nazi fetishism in this and other western countries (think Max Mosley, and the controversy with students of Auckland Grammar and Lincoln University), her argument is just as relevant to today’s consumer culture with its endless choices.

But is it possible to escape the distraction camp? Is there an alternative? Is a revolution possible, or have we lost even the ability to imagine what it might look like? Are we now simply resigned to playing (out) the same destructive roles? Free Theatre’s Distraction Camp grapples with these questions in a very playful, indirect manner: not by preaching to the audience, but by engaging them in the games that are played in a House of Illusions. Is it a brothel? A camp? A theatre? Or just a tango dance floor and another distraction from what really matters?


For further discussion of this production, please see Peter Falkenberg’s “The Theatre as Counterpublic: From The Balcony to Distraction Camp <http://www.freetheatre.org.nz/graphics/dc-peter.pdf> ”, (presented at the 2010 Performance Studies International Conference at York University - PSi#16: Performing Publics), which can be found on the Free Theatre website: http://www.freetheatre.org.nz/history/dc.shtml <http://www.freetheatre.org.nz/history/dc.shtml>

DISTRACTION CAMP, Wellington Tour 2010 @ BATS, 1 Kent Terrace
Tuesday 31 August – Saturday 11 September (excluding Sun/Mon)
Running Time: 80 minutes
Book @ BATS: (04) 802 4175 or email book@bats.co.nz <mailto:book@bats.co.nz>
Ticket prices: $20 / $13


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