Amy and Rosana Cade
75 min • Summerhall • August 1-2, 2014
Laura Macdougall reviews
This year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, it seems, was all about feminism. No longer a dirty word, or something to be ashamed of, women – and men – brought stand-up comedy, plays, spoken word and performance pieces to the Fringe, and one of the most interesting and provocative was Sister. Written and performed by real-life sisters Amy and Rosana Cade, Sister is a brutally honest, confrontational and intelligent piece that challenges us to think about how women are perceived by society, how society encourages women to think about themselves, how women’s bodies are portrayed, and women’s relationships to each other, to sex and to their sexuality.
The piece begins with the two sisters each selecting a member of the audience for whom they give a lapdance, during which they remove their clothes, shoes and matching wigs until they are completely naked. They remain this way for almost the entire performance. This initial, challenging, provocation, which finishes with the sisters lying on the ground, masturbating, forces us to confront how we view the female form. Every day women are represented as flesh, they are judged on their looks and their naked bodies used to sell everything from bottled water to menswear. But, over the course of the piece, the sisters’ nudity is no longer a spectacle; instead it feels natural and normal. Ordinary, even. It also affords their performances and their stories a vulnerability and truthfulness that makes them deeply affecting.
Amy, the older sister, is a sex worker living in Berlin. Rosana is a performance artist based in Glasgow. She’s also happens to be a lesbian. Much of the piece revolves around the two women both being feminists, but approaching their feminism from very different positions and perspectives. In contrast to Rosana’s view of the sex industry and its use, abuse and objectification of women, Amy claims to feel ‘sexually celebrated’, and explains how it was her ‘considered choice’. She doesn’t believe that it is incompatible with her feminism. Yet, in a particularly moving moment, she reads out a letter to her mother in which she reveals that she’s still struggling with the cost of her decision in the face of society’s conservative expectations.
Rosana articulates her struggle in coming to terms with her sister’s choice, and, although she also tells us about her early sexual experiences and coming out to her family, the show does feel weighted more towards Amy’s experiences. More of a balance between the two women’s stories would have made Sister an even more powerful piece of writing; you’re left wanting more insight into the way Rosana chooses to present herself to the world and her experiences as a woman and a lesbian and a feminist. There is a message throughout that women need to perform, conform and reform, and that those who don’t fit conventional moulds struggle. Amy and Rosana support each other in their brave choices not to change who they are in the face of societal pressure, but there is more of a sense of how Amy’s experiences have affected both women than Rosana’s, yet her story is just as valid and important.
A spirit of openness and honesty characterises the piece, and the close relationship that exists between the two sisters is captured in the easy way they speak to each other and in old video footage taken when they were small. Amy and Rosana share with each other, and with the audience, some very personal stories of growing up in a world in which children are exposed to sex from an early age and yet sex and sexuality are still often seen as shameful or taboo – particularly where women are concerned. Sister doesn’t hide the fact that it’s still difficult to be a women; it’s something that requires negotiation, compromise and putting on an act. But, through sharing their experiences and inviting us in, these sisters offer us the hope that, although we aren’t there yet, there might come a time where all women can have these conversations, and where they are no longer judged by society’s expectations but are afforded the space to be who or whatever they want.
For more information and for future dates in 2015, please visit Rosana Cade’s website.