'Signature honesty and sparkling humour' ★★★★★- Vanessa Kisuule's SEXY @ The Wardrobe Theatre

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Arts Editor Alina Young sees Vanessa Kisuule bear all in her fabulous new one-woman show, as SEXY comes to Bristol on its UK tour

‘Sexy’ is a concept that follows us throughout life. Our society is obsessed with sexy people, and even if we don’t want to admit it, the question of whether we’re sexy ourselves is one that’s difficult to avoid. Enter Vanessa Kisuule, who throws her talent wholeheartedly towards exploring the sexiness around us and within us.

Kisuule is ready to talk about the unsexy side of it all- a sexiness that is mixed up with inner conflicts, societal issues, and insecurities

Kisuule- spoken word champion, writer, performer, burlesque artist, and Bristol City Poet 2018-2020- is a formidable creative force that escapes labels. With her signature honesty and sparkling humour, she critiques and laughs at this particular label’s effect on our lives.

As Kisuule observes, us mortals often find ourselves surrounded by sexy people that seem to belong to an exclusive club, where the world is at their feet. Yet Kisuule is ready to talk about the unsexy side of it all- a sexiness that is mixed up with inner conflicts, societal issues, and insecurities.

Her refreshing, naked humour- matching her various states of undress- brings out the laughter of recognition

Her refreshing, naked humour- matching her various states of undress- brings out the laughter of recognition in an audience that relates to her as a friend. She articulates with vibrant originality our own experiences, shedding both humour and profound questions on our common thoughts.

Kisuule has written much of herself into the one-woman show, and the audience witnesses the development of her feelings towards the concept of Sexy. She has been in awe of sexiness since she was a young girl, mimicking the powerful ‘ghetto’ femininity of dance routines on MTV.

As ‘modern, empowered feminists’, we don’t want to admit how we deify sexy women and just ‘want to be fucked’ ourselves.

Yet as she develops into womanhood, she finds herself conflicted between wanting to express her sexuality and understanding the complexities of doing so.

With effortless charm and quick-witted comedy, Kisuule demonstrates how confused many young women are by the double standards that surround us.

As ‘modern, empowered feminists’, we don’t want to admit how we deify sexy women and just ‘want to be fucked’ ourselves. The personal contradictions are endless.

What if we want to be ‘something shiny in the window’ and be adored, but also know that we’re not supposed to want that? And if we enjoy lingerie, high heels and lipstick, are we giving in to patriarchal materialism?

Kisuule humorously explore the problematic notion that to prove we’ve got something going on in our brains, we ‘have to deny what’s going on here’, in our bodies.

Kisuule humorously explores the problematic notion that to prove we’ve got something going on in our brains, we ‘have to deny what’s going on here’, in our bodies.

Women feel they have to deny an unhindered expression of sexuality, as it often boils down to ‘people either respect you or want to fuck you.’

In cleverly lip syncing various recordings of women discussing their sexuality, Kisuule embodies many female voices and proves how complex female sexuality can be in our society. It seems tragic and absurd that it’s not simple to enjoy all our assets, and instead find ourselves having to fight against preconceptions.

Another pressing problem comes into the spotlight, as Kisuule expresses the complicated relationship between black women and sexiness in society.

Why is hip-heavy dancing acceptable for the likes of Britney, whilst the same movement for ‘racially ambiguous’ stars labels them as ‘dirty, ratchet, animalistic’?

She has the ability to observe the issues behind everyday moments, and articulates them with razor-sharp honesty; she relates the blanket labelling of confidence in black women as ‘aggressive’, and the sexualisation of her dancing.

Why is hip-heavy dancing acceptable for the likes of Britney, whilst the same movement for ‘racially ambiguous’ stars labels them as ‘dirty, ratchet, animalistic’? Why should Kisuule have to remind herself to ‘control’ her dancing in the club? Kisuule’s frank discussion and stirring multimedia perfectly strikes at the truth behind such troubling questions.

Throughout the show, Kisuule illustrates how much the mess of sexiness is linked to power, gender, and race, but it returns- as things often do- to a question of identity.

The pursuit of sexiness too often leaves us embarrassed or confused

Sexiness when “achieved” often ends up unsatisfying- someone wanted our body, so ‘you finally got what you wanted...didn’t you?’ It leaves us unsure of ourselves, and unsure of how to behave. The result is a mixture somewhere in between trying again, letting it go, staying angry, remembering what you love about yourself.

Ultimately this experience is so human, in its peculiar tragicomedy

The pursuit of sexiness too often leaves us embarrassed or confused, but Kisuule shows us the light in our feelings. Ultimately this experience is so human, in its peculiar tragicomedy. It seems that sexiness is not really what we thought it to be, but what is more urgent and more fulfilling is the need to feel visible as ourselves- it’s ‘the need to say “I am right fucking here.”’

★★★★★

Feature photo courtesy of the Wardrobe Theatre


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