‘WOW…’ is all I can think of when I leave the venue of the interactive performance BUNNY by Luke George and Daniel Kok. In gradual steps George and Kok guide the audience into this collective experiment of power and surrendering. When I enter the venue I don’t know it yet, but I will become part of the performance…
Beforehand I get a booklet which reminds me of IKEA instructions: inside are knots explained with little histories and backstories. I browse through it a little, but can’t make much sense of it just yet. I go in, and on the bright blue floor master George is suspending Kok in an intricate web of dark ropes. Kok wears a tight grey sports legging and macramé-braided ropes around his chest and head. George is dressed in neon colors, bright yellow ropes form a star on his chest and his kimono is dazzling pink. The dazzling colors contrast the almost tanglible tension between all attendees.
The first interaction with the audience commences when George, just after he has tied his legs, asks someone to tie his hands together. ‘Real tight,’ he says. He positions himself on the floor while Kok is still rotating in his suspension position. Gradually the spinning stops, and at this moment George invites the audience to ‘keep him spinning.’ Curious audience members are given the opportunity to participate, in a position of power relative to both suspended performers.
A sequence of disentanglements follows, while more spectators are taken along in the performance. At some point George is sitting across from me, he looks me in the eye and comes a little closer. At first I thought ‘he is not looking at me, probably someone behind me wants to go,’ but he takes place in front of me and asks if he could tie me up. I nod and he thanks me before he straps my arm together in a futomomo knot (with my hand on my shoulder and my arm folded). He guides me onto the floor en lays me down on a pillow. I am a bit tense, ‘what is going to happen to me?’ ‘how far will this go?’ but most of all: ‘how far am I willing to go?’ Kok takes over and senses my tension and starts to massage my lower legs, neck and back. Afterwards he continues strapping me down with the remaining three neon green ropes. ‘Okay,’ I think to myself, ‘while I lay here roped up, what is happening around me?’ I take a look around and see another participant being tied up. ‘I am not alone up here, I am part of a bigger picture, lying here as a sculpture of human and rope.’
Kok kneels before me again, holding up my bag: ‘is this your bag?’ he asks. I nod again, and he starts to unpack it, one item at the time. Carefully he checks every nook and cranny, even takes out all my debit cards. It was this moment other people were most curious about, ‘didn’t you feel uncomfortable?’ they asked. My answer was the same every time: it felt like my stuff, just like me, was exhibited. I didn’t have any problems with it, for it made me feel even more part of the performance. The moment I was chosen to partake, I started thinking about how I could experiment with my own boundaries, but also with the boundaries of the performance. I felt completely comfortable being exposed in such a direct personal way, even that piece (my wallet) that everyone keeps away from the outside world.
While I laid there, all my body parts tied together in a bizarre position, i noticed how at some point the ropes became an extension of my body instead of a restriction. The ropes supported me, although not for long. At some point I felt my arm and leg tingle and slowly falling asleep. As both performers said to me while making me into that sculpture, ‘if there is any moment you want to stop, just nod your head of wave your hand.’ So after an intriguing and genderbending dance routine is signed George. On the one hand I didn’t want to disturb the performance, but on the other hand I didn’t feel comfortable any more. He saw me immediately and asked what I wanted untied. Meanwhile the performance continued, another spectator was invited to spank Kok with a pink whip. ‘Don’t worry, he wants it,’ George says while loosening my leg. Again the power play shifted from performer to the audience.
For me the performance was mostly about communication in such situations of power and surrender. At first i thought George in his role as master would be in control, for he decided what happened to Kok and the audience in certain parts of the performance. He also directed them at moments when the participants appeared to be in control (like the invitation to keep Kok spinning, or the spanking later on). However, the moment I laid there tied up on the ground, I realised that the bunny is actually in control. When they say ‘stop’, the master stops, listening and sensing very carefully. At the same time the bunny gives away some power, trusting the other to respect their boundaries. This mutual respect, sensitivity and trust ensures a intimate communication between both parties. I felt a connection, which extended to the day after when I ran into Kok in the ‘festivalhart’, and we greeted each other with a hug. BUNNY for me was an experience I would recommend to everyone - if only to explore your own limits. It gave me new perspective on successfully involving the audience into a performance, and on the importance of the presence of both these parties in theatre events. Both the performer and the audience do not exist without each other - every experience of every attendee can leave a deep mark. I want to thank Luke George and Daniel Kok for this extraordinary experience, BUNNY i will remember for the rest of my life.
By Sofie Revet
© Bryony Jackson