Aug 2 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✭   smart, accomplished physical theatre

Underbelly Belly Button (Venue 61) 31 July – 24 August 2014

Set in a suburban bathroom, Sanitise focusses on one woman’s struggle between her (thinly) repressed and inarticulate sexual desires and the obsessive need for cleanliness that her shame over these desires precipitates.

Melanie Jordan in Sanitise. Photo: Richard Dyson

Melanie Jordan in Sanitise. Photo: Richard Dyson

Created by performer Melanie Jordan with director Caitlin Skinner, this combines smart, brilliantly-choreographed and executed physical theatre with impressive use of multimedia. The result is a slick and entertaining examination of the relationship between the social perception of (particularly feminine) sexuality and hygiene.

Alice Wilson’s set design is incredibly smart. Here are genuine, convincingly banal and slightly kitsch suburban bathroom fixtures – complete with pipes, toilet paper, bath mats, rubber duck and very fetching linoleum – used to good effect in delineating Underbelly’s Belly Button black box space, the elevated (and venerated) toilet and mould-concealing bath dominating.

The show is very well lit, with smooth transitions between effective, playful, but unimposing lighting states.

Danny Krass provides witty sound design, combining familiar pop songs with an original score for Jordan to play off.

The multimedia design also works very well here, and AV Designer Calum MacAskill’s projections of Lubin Lone’s peculiarly effective illustrations are well-integrated into the show’s design, as well as the psyche of the character, portraying the touching banality of her desires, and her disturbed paranoid fantasies.

“rapport and engagement”

The most important and most effective element of the show, however, is by far Melanie Jordan’s performance.

From the outset Jordan’s stylised physical performance has excellent energy and she establishes a semi-improvised rapport and engagement with the audience (through the show’s mutable fourth wall). Through her cleverly choreographed and smoothly and confidently executed physical performance, combining elements of clowning and bordering at times on dance, Jordan conveys the character’s intensity, obsession, and yet naïve, endearing and slightly pathetic charm.

Indeed, at times, the audience could (almost) be forgiven for overlooking a lot of the design and choreography, as it’s easy to become absorbed in Jordan’s expressions, with an awful lot of the show’s pathos conveyed through her eyes.

Sanitise is a clever, assured, brilliantly-designed and executed show. With sex ambiguously bound to the bacterial, it blurs the lines between sexuality, hygiene and morality. Only just held at bay beneath a constantly maintained sanitised surface, filth and bacterial life are impossible to prevent or to ever – fully – eradicate. A constant source of anxiety and of shame, they still somehow hold a compelling fascination or attraction and desire to indulge and to wallow in.

Running time: 1hr
Underbelly (Belly Button), 56 Cowgate EH1 1EG (Venue 61)
31 July – 24 August (Not Mon 11)
Daily, 10pm.
Tickets from:
Company website:

Melanie Jordan put on a pedestal in Sanitise. Photo credit: Company

Melanie Jordan put on a pedestal in Sanitise. Photo: Richard Dyson


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