Wayne Herbert on Florence Peake & Catherine Hoffmann
Coastal Undercurrents is a writing initiative supporting six local writers to produce written responses to live work experienced during the Home Live Art programme of performance at Coastal Currents 2018 in Hastings.
Wayne Herbert responds to the work of Florence Peake & Catherine Hoffmann
You walk into an atmospheric, inspiring converted Old Bank, the vibe is inviting – feelgood tunes and a friendly crowd.
Up the stairs to an enormous open-plan living area. The table is set for an exquisite dinner party for fifteen – period cutlery, floral decorations and cakes decorated with doll’s limbs.
The elegant hostesses (Florence Peake and Catherine Hoffmann) in stunning crimson dresses provide a warm welcome and pour drinks before they serve menstrual jelly – a sanitary towel with a sweet red jelly on top.
The red theme then became apparent: table cloth, wine, napkins.
The other four courses: blood soup, womb stew, placenta pancakes and birthing cake (now I got the dolls limbs) were delicious but more than that symbolic.
Catherine and Florence, as any dinner party hosts would, stimulated group discussion – ‘Who’s got leakage stories?’, ‘How does it feel as a woman to not want children?’
Listening to stories of monthly blood flow vs white furniture, and ‘looking forward’ to a time when white dresses were an option was a new experience. Men are not usually included in these conversations and I found myself asking why? I felt out of my comfort zone and wondered whether I should join in the discussion, whether I had the right or whether silence was preferable?
Men will generally discuss bodily functions, of their own; socially acceptable or not and laugh down any expressions of distaste from others. I considered whether women would express leakage stories – leaving no splatter unsaid – irrespective of the response around them and laugh at any dissenters.
What’s wrong with this picture? I found myself reflecting on another example where gender inequality applies. Would women really have made this taboo – whether menstrual cycles, giving birth (or choosing not to), and ageing through the menopause? I doubt that very much. And maybe it’s ok to be a listening member of the conversation even if it’s not entirely comfortable to do so.
The thought, planning and script that has to go into a pensive, political, powerful art performance of this seamless nature is unfathomable.
Applause and thanks to Catherine and Florence for making this man question the depths of his own unconscious patriarchal beliefs and habits.
Wayne Herbert – x is a Hastings based writer and actor. Also owner of the best looking white cockerpoo in East Sussex.
Florence Peake and Catherine Hoffmann performed this work at the first Hastings Performance Salon on Friday 28 September 2018.
Coastal Undercurrents is the first initiative of Home Live Writing, an ongoing project for writers based in the south east who wish to learn more about writing critical responses to live performance.
All images photographed By Georgina Cook