The Price of Meat: The cost of being women

thepriceofmeatThe Price of Meat is presented by City Varsity, performed by past and current acting students and directed by lecturer Jayne Batzofin. Originally devised in 2014 by second year acting students, a few of whom are in this Cape Town Fringe run, the format and style follows the formula of one-by-one confessional monologues showcasing each performer.

It’s not terribly unique but it’s a reliable way to create directly understandable theatre. When it’s done well it’s impactful, but is hardly ever moving. Because we encounter a series of characters, each briefly and not again, there isn’t room to invest in the individuals, no time to absorb each woman’s journey.

But the feminist in me rejoices when the young men in the (probably) high school group which made up most of the opening night’s show, gave a standing ovation. Because the material is vitally important. Because the struggle of women in this country, across all ages and races, in every economic tier, is frighteningly real and frustratingly stagnant.

Deeply entrenched patriarchy has created a society which has to teach girls to be extra vigilant wherever they go lest they’re harassed, attacked, raped or murdered, but doesn’t do enough to ensure boys don’t become those harassers, attackers, rapists, murderers. [Yes, of course #notallmen.]

In The Price of Meat, as the women label their body parts like cuts of meat whilst dancing seductively, they mash-up style sing two hugely popular songs: ‘Wiggle’ by Jason Derulo, which is but one of the countless music videos blatantly objectifying women, and Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’. The latter entirely reduces women to pleasure-objects for use (check the video, or rather don’t) and sends a dangerous message about consent – it’s in the title!

The Price of Meat uses song significantly throughout; the cast of seven sing a capella to create their soundscape. It does at times layer on the message but works well as a tool to draw in their adolescent target audience. And they can’t be faulted on their vocal and choral abilities – the singing and harmonising is excellent.

The work brings to the fore a wide range of issues, from domestic abuse, to hyper-sexualised objectification, to slut shaming and victim blaming. A housewife describes the battering she suffers, her husband hits as if hitting another man; she says, “…come to think of it, that’s the one way I do get equal rights”. Another woman doesn’t bother reporting harassment to the cops, she’s previously experienced the accusatory questioning to establish what she did to provoke the man’s advances.

The monologues are well acted. The singing is fantastic. The physicalisation in each scene keeps the energy high, although it does seem to remain at that high level of tension and could do with some nuance.

The Price of Meat is polished, it’s topical and relevant and its message is to the point. But whilst it gets into the head and does a good job there, it doesn’t quite make it to the heart.

– Sarah Roberson

The Price of Meat is next on today (05/10) at 18.00. Click here for more info & bookings.

Performers: Robyn S Williams, Chiron Swarts, Lobcke Hein, Megan Saayman, Anray Amansure, Khuanita Bright & Kim Fester

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