Nudity censored at EdFringe

Aug 3 2014 | By More

Venue forces La Nina Barro actress to wear catsuit

Actress Elizabeth Sogorb is being forced to wear a flesh-coloured catsuit in her performance of La Nina Barro at the fringe because venue The Newsroom has objected to the nakedness which is an integral part of the show.

La Nina Barro preview performance. Photo: Sandra Navarro

La Nina Barro preview performance. Photo: Sandra Navarro

The Newsroom is part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival. La Nina Barro is based on poems by Marta Masse, interpreted by director Flavia D’Avila and has already had a tricky genesis as D’Avila has been forced to return to Brazil after being refused leave to stay in the UK.

The performance involves Sogorb starting the piece covered in clay, which is washed off over the course of the piece: a woman of clay made flesh. Although Sogorb has had to wear a catsuit to conform to the requests of the venue, D’Avila told Æ that the show is going on.

She said: “I’ve been apologising to audiences at the start of the show for not giving them the piece as it was conceived, and been concerned that reviewers would think the show was not as it should be, if I didn’t explain why she’s wearing a stupid suit.”

The piece had several successful preview performances in Spain before coming to Edinburgh and D’Avila does admit that she had been warned of possible difficulties with the Newsroom.

She said: “I had been warned by Alex Petty that the venue would probably not be ok with it, but in my innocence I believed that if I explained it to them and they saw the show, they would be reasonable about it. I was wrong.”

“prudish censorship”

Commenting on what she calls “prudish censorship”, Edinburgh-based theatre maker Jen McGregor has published a scathing attack of the venue on her facebook page.

Speaking of the piece of theatre itself, she says: “It’s beautiful, and the performer’s nudity is in no way sexual, titillating or gratuitous. It’s absolutely necessary to the piece. It could be argued that it’s the point of the piece.”

She adds, in a direct attack on the Newsroom: “I don’t know what they’re afraid of, since there are no laws or regulations that forbid this (indeed, other pubs in the city offer life drawing classes in their basements).

“Perhaps they think that families dining upstairs might somehow sense the disturbance in the force caused by a naked person downstairs, behind a closed door with a warning sign on it.”

La Nina Barro preview performance. Photo: Sandra Navarro

La Nina Barro preview performance. Photo: Sandra Navarro

D’Avila told Æ that she first came upon Marta Masse’s poetry when they were both working for one of the walking tours companies in Edinburgh. “I immediately connected with the Nina Barro poems,” she said. “I think everyone who’s ever been through some sort of struggle will identify with them. They’re deeply poignant but also so beautifully crafted, I wanted to make them real, touchable.”

The main difficulty for D’Avila was that she was in Brazil and her performers were in Spain. She said: “Initially, we were going to stream rehearsals via Skype, but due to technical problems, that was not possible. The venue where we were working in Spain is underground and the wifi doesn’t quite reach it, and the connection I have in Brazil is incredibly slow as well.

“So we adopted a different technique: I’d send notes and tasks via email to the performers, they would work on them and film the rehearsals and then dropbox the videos to me. We created a facebook group for discussions involving other company members and would arrange Skype chats to talk about each week’s work, and then we’d start again every week. It was super frustrating at times, but I also like giving actors freedom to create, so that worked in our favour.”

It was, she says, a “huge relief” to witness the piece for the first time in the flesh. And even though she still had some work to do with her performers from that point, it is ironic that her Edinburgh audiences will not be able to share in that experience.

Æ contacted the Newsroom and a spokesperson agreed that the venue had asked the actress to cover up. They added: “It’s a small piece of skin-coloured clothing that covers the nether reasons, shall we say. You would barely notice it. The show is on at at midday and we don’t have a licence for full frontal nudity, that’s the only reason for it.”

La Nina Barro is (currently) at the Newsroom (Venue 93), daily, at noon. Entry is free, with a donations bucket at the end. Details on:


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