The canine

Edith Podesta plays a dog in B*TCH: The Origin Of The Female Species.
Edith Podesta plays a dog in B*TCH: The Origin Of The Female Species. PHOTO: CRISPIAN CHAN

Featured in: B*TCH: The Origin Of The Female Species by Edith Podesta and Doggy Style by Joshua Monten

What to expect: Human performers play dogs in different ways.

In the festival commission, B*TCH: The Origin Of The Female Species, Edith Podesta plays a dog, but not in an animalistic way.

"I don't play a dog, like 'ruff ruff'," says the actor-playwright-director, using her hands to mimic a dog's behaviour. "I speak in a human language, but with a canine appreciation."

  • BOOK IT / B*TCH: THE ORIGIN OF THE FEMALE SPECIES

  • WHERE: Esplanade Recital Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive


    WHEN: Jan 21 to 23, 8pm


    ADMISSION: $22

  • DOGGY STYLE

  • WHERE: Esplanade Theatre Studio


    WHEN: Jan 20 and 21, 8pm


    ADMISSION: $22

For example, she views her owner's (a librarian played by Australian co-actor Helmut Bakaitis) house as a "dead forest". She greets him as a human, but acts unabashedly like a dog would, with hugs and kisses.

The 75-minute work simultaneously relooks the etymology of the word "b*tch" as a derogatory term used on women; at the lines drawn between man and woman and between animal and human.

In contrast, Joshua Monten's 60-minute dance piece, Doggy Style, looks at the "virtuosic physicality of dogs".

To do this, the Swiss choreographer, who has never owned a dog, got his four dancers to observe dogs in parks and rehearse outdoors near dogs.

"We got to observe how creative and spontaneous dogs can be when they're playing with one another," says Monten, 40. Sometimes, he adds, stray dogs would show up and try to join in the fun.

The result is a playful work that examines the relationship between man and man's best friend.

What unites the two shows, besides their furry inspirations, is their exploration of language - more specifically, a non-verbal language.

For example, Doggy Style is accessible to hearing impaired audiences, with dancers using sign language in the piece, alongside dance and animal- and human-like movement.

With B*TCH, Podesta, 35, is interested in looking at the intelligence of animals despite the lack of verbal language.

She says: "They can go straight to the core of a human being - they can tell the history of a person just by sitting with them."


Nabilah Said

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2015, with the headline 'The canine'. Print Edition | Subscribe