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4 #Fringe2020 Performances on Sex and Bodies

4 #Fringe2020 Performances on Sex and Bodies

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Part raunchy, part wholesome – all a treat to see.

“Ask me what kind of porn I am into,” starts an old spoken-word piece that isn’t as woefully pornographic as the lines suggest. It’s not the type of conversation topic you’d offer, much less in front of an audience. Your kinks tend to stay deep in the dark reaches of your cache. 

So, for someone who has never heard of Fringe Manila, seeing the promotional materials for the 2020 festival is an experience. It starts off with harmless innuendos you can shrug off. Maybe chuck it off to a PR intern who’s feeling a little parched. Then it quickly snowballs into a line of increasingly loud questions: “They’re doing what? Where?! Did you actually just use the word ‘switch’ in that context?!! OH GOD, THE BOOMERS-” 

One harried moment spent murmuring the words, “no one talks about sex in the Philippines,” later – a realization. They should. 

And Fringe Manila 2020 is the perfect place for it. Following its predecessors, the homegrown Fringe is unapologetically nonconventional. It’s open. It’s unjuried. It’s inclusive in all the right ways. Like the best friend turned lover in romantic cliches, it strives to create a safe environment within the confines of its reach.

That’s why it allows performers to take more risque, er, risks. Uncensored. All for the sake of art and deepening conversations on body, fluidity, and movement. 

Here’s a sneak peek on some of the artists lined up, for an idea of how that conversation might go:


“Bondage” is the first term we need to tackle. Not least of which because you need a rope or some similar material to fly in the air like aerial bondage performer JOYEN. Her work takes inspiration from kinbaku, or Japanese rope bondage, a beautiful art form with a riveting history to boot.

Originally derived from a need to artfully – and safely – depict a brutal martial art onstage, it evolved into something vastly different. It found itself as a way to communicate trust between binder and subject, taking the line “let our bodies do the talking” to another extreme. 

Fun fact: Katsushika Hokusai, the same artist behind The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, created one of the most iconic imagery for kinbaku. Dreams of the Fisherman’s Wife shows a woman tightly bound in the embrace of octopuses. Her hands grasp at tentacled arms as her only means to control the situation.

For Fringe 2020, JOYEN is offering a rope bondage workshop called String Theory on February 22, 1-5 PM, at Fringe HQ. For Php. 2,000, you get a brush with the basics and demonstrations from the artist herself.

“I’m happy to continue being part of the festival, where freaks like me can exist proudly, be well represented, and cared for in their artistic journey.” — JOYEN

Deus Sex Machina

As the only self-described “comedic erotica live reading show” in Metro Manila, Deus Sex Machina does not talk about sex. No, what it does is something else. The collection of words coming to mind describes short surrealist plays centered around the topic of sex, because what else do you call it?

What do you call an alternate universe The Bachelor where all the world’s living despots vie for Xie Jinping’s rose? Or a skit where a weeb couple makes do, each party uniquely disappointed that real sex isn’t as colorful and pixelated as hentai? How about a son’s ditty about his dead father’s castrated- PENIS, the word we’re looking for is “penis.” 

And “irreverent.” That was the other one. It takes all the weird sex thoughts you might have, puts them in a machine, and cranks it up until the handle’s broken. As far as creating safe spaces go, finding weird and lurid ways to sneak in the idea of “grandma lips” or non-perfect vaginas as normal and okay seems like a good start. 

Deus Sex Machina presents To Have and to Ho, a show on nuptials, on February 22, 9-11 PM, at the Fringe Club (Draper Startup House). The tickets are Php. 350.

“We’re a pretty offbeat concept, and the festival draws audiences who are open to offbeat things.” — Marco Sumayao, Deus Sex Machina

Burlesque PH

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that popular noontime show, It’s Showtime, is a vaudeville act to a degree. The two, maybe three-hour-long show invites performers to sing, dance, act in short plays, and serve as comedic entertainment in its individual segments. On anniversary days, the cast themselves perform all of that as a tight-knit band.

When elements of vaudeville or bodabil are still so prevalent in popular media, it stands to reason it’s about time to learn more about it. Fun fact: bodabil and jazz share a closely entwined history in the Philippines when the latter featured prominently in the acts of the first Filipino-led bodabil company. 

Burlesque PH has spent the past Fringe festivals exploring the art form’s history by perpetuating it in their cabaret show, Bodabil. As their name suggests, the show will include a burlesque twist. It returns to the Fringe Club for 2020 on February 18, 9PM. For Php. 500 (early bird)/ Php. 800 (door), they promise a fun variety show with a striptease at its heart.

Additionally, the company will offer a workshop on the 23rd, 11AM-3PM, at Rockwell Atletica. It’s called Burlesque Discovery, and, for the same price as their show, you can learn how to love yourself in your body through the foundations of burlesque as taught by Lucky Rapscallion.

Langgam Performance Troupe

Often, the art process is as impressive as the product itself. For their physical theater show, Somewhere Else Instead, the Langgam Performance Troupe conducted 12 site-specific tutorials. Each rehearsal had 12 staircase-centric poems to accompany them as textual prompts. 

From this research and practice, comes the last performance: the design and creation of a 13th staircase with the use of their bodies and notes. The use of movement to embody the varying significance of something so trivial and static as a staircase is a novel idea. That said, it’s certainly easier to understand the concept once seen.

As part of Fringe’s Foreplay program, Somewhere Else Instead showed last February 8 and 9 at the Yuchengco Museum. It was ticketed, but audience members could enter on a pay-what-you-can basis.

Fringe Manila is an almost 6-week long festival, with local and international artists alike showcasing and collaborating to create this unique experience. 

Among these are more workshops such as Mayari: A Women’s Self Protection Workshop, held March 7 at the Rockwell Atletica with a ticket price of Php. 2,000. Tattoo pop-up shops with works by Binksy and Ilona Fiddy, February 12-15 and February 16-29, respectively. Komiket has a series of workshops and a book signing to cap it off, throughout February 8-March 7. Plus, more cabaret shows from the House of Mizrahi and the House of Worship.

In summary, there’s… a lot to cover, guys. In times like these, it’s best to direct your attention to their official website and Facebook page, so you get a much better visual on the schedules and shows available!

About the Author /


Freelance content writer and neophyte theater kid who’s still discovering the classics. Raoul is the better boy and you can fight me about it on Twitter or LinkedIn if you’re cool.

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