Pictured: Leah Shelton (Photo by FenLan Chuang)

Raw, bold, provocative yet stylish, Bitch on Heat is a hypnotising, seductive and intoxicating show that contrary to what the rather grotesque image on the sensationalist promotional poster suggests, is clever, witty, cerebral and sophisticated, pondering the essence of human existence as we have now stepped into a both prejudiced and liberating 21st century.

Sensorially evocative and provocative this one wo/man 45-minute performance by and with a superbly talented Leah Shelton and directed by Ursula Martinez,and where fluidity is the keyword, has it all. Stimulating all our senses and challenging conventional gender notions, Bitch on Heat draws from different genres to impressively get its message across. Ever engaging, shocking and seductively alluring all at once, Bitch on Heat serves up a cocktail of sensations and emotions, embracing various artistic movements as it moves along.

Drawing from the postmodern, pop culture, fantasy, phantasmagorical fairytale and realism all at once,the play crosses genres and includes different media, and at one stage has its main character deliver dry and matter-of-fact statements partly in voiceover ̶ reflecting both her own thoughts and concerns and those of women in general ̶that are evocative of 1950's Hollywood movies. At the very core of the play is a desire on the part of writer and director to present us with raw reality as we know it and to lay it all bare in a both sensual and confronting manner.

Subject: Leah Shelton (Photographer: FenLan Chuang)

The show is a visual and sensory tour-de-force that has the highly diverse audience engaged from beginning to end. With many of the viewers members of the LGBTI community, this play initially narrated in voice-over first introduces us to a wide-eyed bimbo who is a vessel ready to be filled with new impressions. She opens Pandora’s box only to apparently find her own alter ego speaking on her behalf, she suggestively explores her own sexuality, then turns into a man only to once again seamlessly inhabit female shape and form. Layers of artifice and artificiality are stripped off with the removal of fake lips, blonde wig, and a bodysuit that reveals a perfect female form,and out steps the real woman beneath.

Authenticity and real identity are called into dialogue with the unnatural, surface is contrasted with depth, youth with age, raunchy and suggestive sexual acts (or “vintage sexism”, as it is perfectly put on the programme page) with subsequent sombre female reflections. And all along evocative lighting, perfect external commentaries and background music make for a deliciously complete and viscerally enticing play where both men and women can identify with the social conditioning and gender binaries commented on and ultimately criticised on stage.

Pictured: Leah Shelton (Photo: Jytte Holmqvist)

A play that goes relentlessly deeper, probing and exploring, Bitch on Heat queries what it means to be both man and woman today, challenging gender assumptions, the patriarchy, commenting on exploitative relationships and the abusive appropriation and exploitation of the other, only to suggest the possibility of a different outcome. The play ultimately proves that fluidity is and should be our only guideline in a decade that has begun to question the norm and where social, cultural and sexual differences now constitute a force to be reckoned with. Magnificent!

Rating: 5/5


Dates: 10 - 19 May 2019

Location: Theatre Works - 14 Acland Street, St Kilda East

Times: 5.00pm or 7.30pm sessions. Check website for details.

Duration: 45 minutes

Cost: $32.50 - $47.50 Theatre Works Website