Mathilde Monnier is a 51-year-old French choreographer based in Montpellier and in Gustavia (Queen Elizabeth Hall) she teams up with the Spanish dancer and performance artist La Ribot. The piece, which examines the female condition through the calculatedly unsuitable medium of silent-film burlesque, opens with the pair competing for the audience's sympathy through bouts of feigned weeping. As one sobbingly quotes Hamlet: "To sleep, perchance to dream…" the other upstages her, pulling faces and rolling her eyes. A violent thunderstorm erupts on the soundtrack, and the two launch into a Laurel and Hardyesque routine in which La Ribot, 48, lurches around the half-lit stage with a plank, whacking Monnier on the side of the head. La Ribot never gets the plank under control, Monnier never learns how to avoid it, and the laughter from the audience increases with each repetition of the slapstick violence. At what point, you wonder as Monnier collapses for perhaps the 20th time, would it fade?

"Let the artists die!" yells La Ribot, as Monnier lies there, twisted and abject. The slogan is the title of a 1985 theatre piece about political oppression by the late Polish director Tadeusz Kantor, who was a strong influence on both women. The performance finishes with the pair taking turns to shout absurd, pseudo-feminist phrases: "A woman has a parrot on her shoulder"; "A woman has two friends: a psychiatrist and an intellectual"; "A woman is doing sex tourism in Afghanistan". Weird, dadaist stuff, but the performers have a light touch, and unlike Marie Chouinard don't feel the need to hammer their point home.

the guardian

luke jennings