BRUCE LABRUCE HATCHED “THE BAD BREAST” IN VIENNA
By Andreas Fleck
In December, 2009 the Canadian filmmaker, photographer and theatre director Bruce LaBruce already had his third Austrian premiere with a theatre performance at brut Vienna: “The bad breast”. Together with his actors – some of them from his trash-splatter-queer-porno-horror-zombie movie “Otto; or: Up with dead people” – and the drag queen Vaginal Davis, he had the psychoanalytic methods of Melanie Klein meet those of Sigmund Freud, the superfather of all couch whispering, in a queer musical revue, in order to replace the oft-quoted penis envy with the much less frequently quoted breast envy in pre-Christmas Vienna.
The basis of this musical is a conflict which in the 1940ies drove Great Britain’s psychoanalysts into a religious war, splitting them in three inimical factions: Freudians, Kleinians and Neutrals. While Freud, and later his youngest daughter Anna, understood the Oedipus complex – which even today is apt to bring the blood of hordes of critics to the boil – as the basic principle of his teachings, Klein opposed this with the theory of “the bad and the good breast”. This theory leads to the concept of paranoid-schizophrenic position, where the infant protects itself from suicidal drive by “splitting off that part of its self or ego which it experiences as containing the suicidal drive and projecting it into the primordial, original partial object – the mother’s breast”. Thus the extensive programme which manages to fill at least the most excruciating gaps of understanding.
The setting is simple (stage set and costumes: Marc Brandenburg). A medical practice with couch, the walls reflecting the self, a – to misuse Lacan – “mirror stadium” that is supposed to help fathom the development of the ego. In the center a screen, a projection area for film sequences rather than inner conditions. To the left five pedestals, little show stairways à la Hollywood, on which the five personalities of the patient Theda Lange posed and symbolised manifold states of consciusness in choreographed simultaneous movements. The acting psychotherapist, Dr. Joy (Katharina Klewinghaus), an avowed Kleinian and thus nearer to the breast than the penis, quotes extensively from the Freudian professional vocabulary in order to elaborate its terms and at best refute them with Melanie Klein. Denial, schism, projection, eros, thanatos, fear of castration, suicidal drive, Oedipus complex, penis envy. However, any attempt to transfer these complex thoughts in an analysis onto “The bad breast” would most probably turn out to be unsatisfactory, if not entirely superfluous. After all, the show is not based on more than a – through Klein – more feminist interpretation of Freud’s theories (penis envy, fear of castration, etc.) which are, as is well-known, highly un-feminist and even deeply patriarchal.
For, as mentioned before, this is a show, a musical, a Christmas revue which approaches the world of psychoanalysis with fun and dance, pomp and occasional masturbation. Over years of couch talks the “nympho-hysterical patient” Theda Lange, played by Susanne Sachsse who already worked with LaBruce in “Otto; or: Up with dead people” and “The Raspberry Reich”, lives through well-known psychoanalytic processes – regression, schizophrenia, sadism, suicide attempts, opposition etc. – not without leaving room for all manner of bawdiness, sexual allusions, fucking stories, Oedipus complexes and burlesque dance interludes, but wihtout showing that which one might have expected: explicit nakedness, pornography and perversion.
So one experienced a rather conventional piece with a few loans from LaBruce’s master discipline film, along which according to his own statement he orientated especially by using montage, a special soundtrack (composition and sound design: Plantingtorock) and some video sequences. And those who like to see the two-metre drag performance wonder Vaginal Davis sing and dance in over-luscious female plush sexual characteristics (primary as well as secondary), who like strictly choreographed dance parts and friendly pop melodies, will also enjoy “The bad breast”. But those who have recourse to additional deeper reading of Freud and Klein possibly will not get more out of it.