Brian Butler May 30, 2022

Dutch performer Sofie Kramer couldn’t be more explicit in her publicity for this audacious, outrageous, mesmerising show, which centres on both her acting skills and her agility on a very tall pole which stands centre stage.

To quote her, this show is about “an orgasmic performance about the sacrifice of a female body”. And within the opening minute or two she’s as good as her word, gyrating and writhing on the ground with the pole between her legs. It’s a full-on example of what’s to come for the next 50 minutes.

This erotic movement is matched by an explicit text about the way she exercises her sensual attributes to woo Greek hero Achilles. For this is a Greek tragedy with a modern setting and modern idioms, that blurs mythology and pornography.

So explicit indeed is the content that some audience members felt the need to leave. I, dear reader, am made of sterner stuff. Sophie takes the Greek tragedy of Iphigenia, daughter to King Agamemnon, and gives it several twists and additions. Basically the king, who she says loves his daughter inappropriately, decides she must be sacrificed so the Gods will blow wind into the Greek sailing ships to rescue Helen of Troy.

But we don’t ever really get to a full-blooded enactment of her death. She prefers to dwell on her love-making with hero Achilles, who wants to marry her but fails to change the king’s mind about her execution. Sophie’s graphic sexual descriptions go into overdrive here and she adds a plot twist of Iphigenia emasculating Achilles in a narrative I couldn’t possibly repeat.

The drama is heightened by a bold lighting plot and an amazing soundscape created by Mári Máko, where the pole itself is wired for sound and Sophie’s brutalising of it deafens and frightens us. What Sophie leaves us with is a piece of radical feminist theatre that celebrates the power of the female body.

It’s certainly the most startling theatre piece I have ever seen, and it’s everyone’s judgement whether it’s art or just top-shelf pornography.

A Pole Tragedy was at the Old Market, as part of Brighton Fringe. Other Fringe shows HERE