Sweet@The Poets, 7 May 2023
Less ‘Manic’, more ‘Traumatic’, Raina Griefer’s solo spoken word show frequently has the uncomfortable honesty of a victim impact statement in this retrospective study of the 23-year-old’s sexual history.
Flashed up feminist rhetoric slides on heterosexual sexual politics are dotted throughout this troubled autobiography as thought-provoking anchors – there’s a lot to unpack and it’s a skilled writer-performer who delivers such personal intimacy in such an engaging variety of ways. The slides are joined by teenage mood boards, costume changes, props, a soundtrack of cues and music, and more in this versatile labour of love. Emotional carelessness and a cold disregard for consent and participation are frequent haunting flags flown in these encounters. Griefer has much to say and share, it bubbles up overflowing from her in raw, hurt poetic couplets and puppetry representations of past lovers, her experiences so fresh as to be still part-processing. She has not been treated well – that much is clear, and yet her lack of personal agency within these tales is both heart-breaking and frustrating.
There is an overabundance of content to consider, standing free asking us to make our own connections between it and the rhetoric. ‘Manic’ is an extensively well-researched and presented essay on modern straight sexual relations, but with no suggested or hinted at conclusions to the piece. This is presumably deliberate but a shame, as just a hint at historical or sociological context might bring forth a common ground starting place for the explosion of questions this show so clearly should prompt from her academic-sounding quotes and heartbreak.
Once this is no longer so fresh another shape of ‘Manic’ may come to Griefer. She is a skilled writer and performer, creative in her tellings and engaging throughout. She so deserves resolution for her show, and her relationships.