Hey guys! This week, after watching the amazing ‘Fagin’s Twist’ on Saturday, we travelled up to Sirius Academy North to watch ‘Bullish’. It centred around 4 people playing the part of Asterion, also known as the feral, savage Minotaur of Ancient Crete. We followed them through the labyrinth of gender identity as they searched for the man they wanted to become. It drew inspiration from various tales from Greek mythology including the Minotaur and Icarius and his wings of wax and pitted them against modern gender navigation. Although they didn’t come out directly and tell us, it was implicitly expressed that they were all transgender and so the performance was clearly near and dear to them. So in today’s post, I’m going to describe this event and the underlying metaphors and symbolism that it hosted.
To help you better understand the links to Greek mythology in this performance, here’s some context. The Minotaur is commonly represented with the body of a man and the head and tail of a bull due to one of his parents being the Cretan Bull and the other being Pasiphaë, wife of Minos. She was cursed to fall in love with the bull after Minos broke his agreement with Poseidon, the sea god, to kill the bull while he was competing with his brothers to seize the throne of Crete.
After Androgeus, son of Minos was killed by the Athenians (the accounts of how was killed differ), Minos waged war on Aegeus, king of Athens, and won. As penance for killing Androgeus, seven Athenian youths and seven maidens, drawn by lots, were sent every seventh or ninth year to be devoured by the Minotaur.
Theseus promised his father Aegeus as the third sacrifice drew nearer that he’d slay the Minotaur. Minos’ daughter Ariadne become infatuated with Theseus and she helped him navigate the labyrinth by gifting him with a ball of string so he could retrace his steps. Theseus killed the Minotaur and led the other Athenians out of the labyrinth.
The tale of Icarus and the wax wings links to the Minotaur since his father was the creator of the labyrinth. They attempted to escape Crete using wings crafted by his father with feathers and wax. His father warns Icarus not to fly too close to the Sun or the sea as it will destroy the wings and kill them. Icarus ignored his sound advice and flew too close to the Sun, causing him to plummet to his death in the sea.
Overall, the performance explored what it was like to transition from one gender to another. The four performers introduced themselves as Asterion and explained that they were ‘Bullish’ – basically meaning they were only half man. They used a mixture of dancing, singing and spoken word to drive across their point in the performance – that it was confusing to transition from one gender to another. There were lots of problems that transgender people face such as reactions of loved ones, the appointment to transform into the new gender, reactions in public places and struggling to find your way through the labyrinth of gender identity.
For the reaction from your loved ones, one cast member acted as the mum while another acted as the transgender child. At first, the mum had a hard time accepting it and wondered if there was anything more she could’ve done as a parent to support her child. But in the end, she accepted it and followed her child through the labyrinth of gender identity as they slowly unravelled and she caught them as they tried to escape with wax wings that melted.
They also described the appointment and the aftermath of it. For them, it was like becoming a new person with a new identity in a new skin. After being confused about their gender identity for so long, they finally felt comfortable in their skin and who they were. Transforming into the opposite gender brought it’s own problems though. Struggling to date, not feeling masculine enough and hate from anti LGBTQ people were just a few of the issues.
The reaction in public places was one of the sadder parts of the performance. Being a Minotaur, they sat on the bus near a family of various different animals. When they described themselves as being bullish to the family, the family heavily judged them. With the metaphor, I think it was trying express the judgment that transgender people experience because they are different and unique from everyone else. The four Minotaurs also mentioned several times that Theseus was coming because it was written and promised a really long time ago. Theseus arrived in a bar just as the Minotaurs were starting to feel comfortable in their new gender and skin. He ‘killed’ the Minotaur – killed their confidence, killed their sense of identity, killed their dreams of becoming the man they envisioned. Theseus taunted them, telling them that they’d never be a real man like him. He proceeded to challenge them to a fight and completely beat them up. After this, they questioned their new sense of identity and began to feel quite lost and self conscious. It’s saddening that some transgender people no doubt experience this judgement and feel so lost and unconfident in themselves.
The performers used quite a few metaphors to further empathise their point such as ‘waking up in your new skin’, ‘feeling like a jigsaw that doesn’t quite fit’ and ‘it was like Clark Kent never realising that he was destined to be superman until it happened’. The lighting also assisted them in setting the mood and driving across their point and they wore Minotaur masks at various points throughout the performance. The performance mixed seriousness and humour with some very sombre, emotional moments of spoken word and some very humorous moments that had the audience chuckling.
Overall, I really enjoyed the performance. I was really impressed that they managed to remember so much spoken word because it was a 60 minute show and they spent much of it talking. I found the links to Greek mythology really interesting because I loved reading all the Greek mythology stories when I was younger. However, if you didn’t know the stories of the Minotaur and Icarus, that might inhibit you from understanding it on that deeper level. Gender identity and gender change wasn’t something I’d ever given much thought to up until now. So I found the performance very thought provoking in that way. It was so unique and unlike anything I’d ever witnessed in my life before and I’m really glad I had the opportunity to watch this performance.
Thank you for reading this post! What do you think of ‘Bullish’? Let me know in the comments section! There’ll be another post out soon but until then bye for now!
Amelia Grace a.k.a Amelia in Hull