Amongst the myriad layers of theatre, comedy, performance and pure madness that fills the streets of Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival every year, it can be hard to find productions that resonate. Spill Your Guts Here, written and performed by Sophie Lakely, is one such show that not only captures the filthy, embarrassing parts of being an intelligent young woman in 2016, but the desolation of heartbreak and the dangers of allowing yourself to fall into a void.
How do you tell a story in just one frame? Do it the way Helmut Newton did. I saw his big retrospective in Rome in 2013 and again last weekend in Amsterdam’s Foam. The major exhibition features more than 200 photographs, ranging from the monumental, life-size nudes to some of his early prints that are rarely shown.
Wendy Jones’s recently published work, The Sex Lives of English Women, showcases a collection of 24 interviews that aim to transcend age, class, upbringing and religion, and focus on what women actually want. It’s an incredibly ambitious project, the initial script of which ran to half a million words.
Within moments of arriving outside the closed shutters on a quiet Borough backstreet we’re approached by men – they want the password, and once we’ve given it we’re in. It’s an old carpet factory, perfect for the sense of claustrophobia and dark dealings that CROOKS aims to create. The atmosphere is charged; the old lift creaks and clanks as we go down. There’s door upon door leading who knows where (if we go snooping, we’re told, they’ll f*cking kill us, so I resist the urge). We’re split into teams and throughout the next 90 minutes we’re tasked with extracting information from a bent rozzer, swapping two heavy, powdery briefcases over, playing a hand of Blackjack with the Don, scheming with his fur-coated wife and then slipping a vial of poison into a lurking glass of whiskey. It’s great entertainment, even if the pauses between each “scene” are a little drawn out in the dark, thumping downstairs saloon.
We know Beardsley as the poster boy for Naughty Ninety’s decadence: he was by far the most controversial exponent of Art Nouveau; apart from Henry Fuseli, virtually the only nineteenth century British erotic artist of any real importance (his Lysistrata was privately published); he lost his job as art editor at The Yellow Book essentially because of his association with Oscar Wilde.
The guide asked me if I was into "Shibari". What? Japanese fabric dying? For a moment I envisioned a W.I. instructor coming showing us how to make a beautiful table-cloths on the cheap. No, no, that's shibori. Shibari or, kinbaku if you're caught out by vowels as I so often am, is a Japanese erotic art form which involves tying girls up in rope. Well yes, actually, that sounds like just my sort of thing.
Robert Mapplethorpe and I have something in common: as children we both loved chewing our toenails. Fortunately, Mapplethorpe also loved drawing. He became an artistic sensation, turning photography into an art form as it had never been before. I doubt I’ll ever make a career out of chewing my toenails.
Catullus is not current or sexy. And he not only wrote – he wrote poems, which is a bit naff. Plus, he’s dead. Thankfully, Daisy Dunn is here to save the day. She adores this ancient verse-maker, and now, since reading her first books – published concurrently – so do I.
Allen Jones does not allow us to objectify her body and what she represents. Each image realises her as an individual person. The maîtresse may represent your utmost fantasies and she may wear a mask of sorts, but she is also a strong and a highly accessible representation of a sexually powerful female figure.