by Darby Turnbull
As I exited the Butterfly Club into the still noxious Melbourne air, I pondered; was the show I had just experienced an hallucination caused by inhaling too much smoke? Surely, a play whose main draw is penis sock puppets and anthropomorphic sex toys couldn’t have been so unremittingly dull? Was this show an elaborate conspiracy designed to reduce sales of sex toys? In an interview with this website, creator and performer Dominique Croset said Dil and Do, S1 “challenges perceptions of gender roles and social norms. I want to liberate stale concepts of pleasure and sexuality,”. Unfortunately, I saw very little evidence in the text or presentation to support this thesis statement, at best it is a solid four-minute sketch stretched out to a laborious hour.
Dil, played with strained perkiness by Nicola De Rosho Davies, is a sales representative marketing pleasure aids at an exhibition. She is a promising character; robotic, slightly repressed, spouting empty platitudes about ‘empowerment’. That’s all we get of her, she’s a caricature with nowhere to go except to play the same notes until they’re worn out. Do, played by Croset is an older French woman who takes over Dil’s presentation and whom we later learn is selling lingerie. The main issue is that these two performers share minimal stage chemistry meaning the pacing is frequently slow and forced so that potentially amusing repartee is lost. Croset’s characterisation is also hindered by the over reliance of her character speaking limited English as well as social skills. Mostly, she comes across as mildly deranged in a way that suggests we’re supposed to laugh at rather than with her. From my understanding we are to extrapolate that this younger woman has something to teach this older woman about how sexual mores and attitudes towards self-pleasure have evolved over time. We are told this repeatedly, but any wit or insight has been lost in translation.
For example, two puppetry interludes contain depictions of coercive marital sex; One in 1910, with a chauvinistic husband, represented by a dildo, forcing himself on his wife and the other in the present day with a woman, represented by a peach degrading and pushing her male partner into giving her anal sex. Cringe humour is difficult to accomplish and Croset doesn’t demonstrate the finesse, in this case, to make it anything other than distasteful. There isn’t much evidence to suggest that this depiction is subversive or irreverent; there is something potentially compelling in women’s sexual liberation being misconstrued as replicating the same toxic behaviours that they themselves were/are subjected to, but it’s a stretch given the portrayal in this instance. The puppetry segments are also hindered by Davies and Croset choosing to use Dil and Do’s voices instead of giving the puppets distinct characterisations.
More egregious is the final segment which Croset describes as ‘a satire of patriarchal oppression and warfare through the use of “little jumping willies” serving under the abusive authority of a giant male sextoy’. Personally speaking, I doubt I would have guessed this was what it represented as it went on for a meandering ten minutes devoid of structure or cohesion.
Consistently, the humour rests on the notion that the audience will find the mere presence of sex toys, unflattering (albeit practical) lingerie and puppets performing sex acts funny and a musical punchline funny. There were members of the audience that roared with laughter, but I personally couldn’t find anything particularly amusing, even on a puerile level. Not from squeamishness on my part but rather for want of a well-constructed piece of insight that validates what this show is ostensibly about.
At the curtain call there was the suggestion that Dil and Do may become an ongoing series. I didn’t connect with this particular show on a writing or performance level but it’s a concept that with stronger direction (none was credited for this production), dramaturgy and development could have potential.
Dil and Do, Season 1 is playing at the Butterfly Club until January 18th.
Performances: 2 Writing: 1.5 Direction: 1.5
Sound/Lighting: 2.5 Set/Costume: 2.5