Madeleine Boyes-Manseau has created a uniquely extravagant seven-minutes closet/boudoir for this production that, true to its billing, is indeed a highly intimate performance for one. In 7 Minutes in Heaven, Boyes-Manseau explores this theme of intimacy, particularly in its relation to the objectification of our bodies and to desire.
Rather than tell you the specifics of what happened in the little black box (how uncouth that would be), I think it more apt to talk about these themes and perhaps provide some useful starting points should you be fortunate enough to spend seven of your own minutes in heaven.
What is it to find someone attractive? Our bodies respond to the bodies of others in ways that we don’t consciously control; chemicals are dumped into our bloodstreams and brains and we feel attracted or repulsed by people around us – their actions, words, and simple presence. Boyes-Manseau’s dialogue in Seven Minutes draws this reality to our attention and asks us to consider our actions in response. That is, the part we do have a measure of control over. When faced with objectification, are we flattered, or are we repulsed, and more importantly, what do we do in response to having our bodies considered as objects of desire?
This internal tension of how to act in response to another human plays into another tension that often arises in interactive theatrical experiences, wherein the desire to be genuine comes into conflict with the desire to help the performance go well. There is a moment where Boyes-Manseau asks you to choose a part of her that you find attractive. This follows on the heels of her selecting a particular aspect of your own body that is attractive to her. I felt a pressure to make a choice that made me uncomfortable, because this is not a thing that I would ordinarily do. There are myriad ways in which humans objectify one another, but rarely is it invited, and in such an explicit manner. I’m sure this is a rather harrowing moment for the performer, because clearly they can’t be sure what you are going to do. I am nearly as uncomfortable doing this as I am hearing the virtues of certain of my own body parts being extolled (sounds lewd doesn’t it? It’s not.). It’s odd that identifying particular loci of attraction on the body of another human makes for such discomfort that I still want to hide behind big Latinate words.
It’s hard to express attraction for another person in a way that’s not offensive. This isn’t to say that we ought not be offended by the objectification of ourselves and others, but rather that we need to develop new ways of expressing genuine feelings of attraction that reflect our shared humanity without reducing one another to simple subjects and objects of desire.
My biggest complaint is that at a mere seven minutes in length, Boyes-Manseau hasn’t left herself a lot of room to explore these issues in any great depth. This is another way I felt the pressure to help make the show go well shoulder its way into our experience. With a less rigid (or longer) time frame, the performer’s agenda would be less explicit, and the interaction could explore more thoroughly the tensions it creates. That said, Boyes-Manseau treats these issues with a care and honesty that put me at ease, and while I left wishing that I’d had more of a chance to express myself, I was extremely engaged with the experience as a whole.
7 Minutes in Heaven
Created and performed by Madeleine Boyes-Manseau