In a stuffy venue in Hackney, in the middle of a thunder storm, Kristin Hayter is strung up between the lighting rig and a speaker stack. Hanging from them precariously, by a wire she’s wrapped around her neck, she’s got her own fate in the palm of her hand. Moments before, the pint-sized banshee had curled herself into a ball atop said speaker, her stage lit by strip lights encased in plastic, her chest thundering up and down, catching her breath – a moment of calm in the chaos. Then, she stands, the phoenix, she rises, and morphs back into the anonymous embodiment of female rage every woman in the crowd can relate to.
Female anger is one of the last gender taboos. Silent femmes are stoic, broken femmes are manic pixie dream girls, emotional females end up being portrayed as soft, romantic and occasionally forlorn, but experience brimstone-spitting succubus – a package of unbridled, terrifying rage – no doubt soon you’ll start to hear her negged. Words such as spiky, over-emotional, challenging, threatening – at the best, a bit of a handful. Realise that, and soon we realise how patriarchal insults are. A woman asking you to please pick up your damn coat off the floor? A nag, the old ball-and-chain. A 16 year old girl daring to point out the state of the climate, emotionally? A plant. A fraud, a creature to be bullied, mocked and spat upon.
Indeed, it’s our rejection of anger as female from a young age that leads to many of the epidemics we’re in crisis with as a society. Because instead of being taught to be angry, we’re taught to be placid. To be silent. To internalise our anger and take it out on ourselves? How is that ok? Something, somewhere, has to give.
Somehow, some way, we need to be angry. Because trust us, the women are fucking angry.
It’s this context, then, that frames Lingua Ignota at Oslo in Hackney tonight. Kristin Hayter takes to the stage, lit only from behind waves of plastic, dressed in black – her lengthy set-up ritual preparation serves as a blank canvas, one she applies to herself; as she rips out her soul and replaces it with one dedicated to the discourse of trauma.
Her operatic voice swings between beautiful, ethereal singing – and guttural growls, tentatively edging an elongated “How can you doubt me now?” from DO YOU DOUBT ME TRAITOR, and then we’re off. Her shrieks become battle cries, a confrontation and expulsion of the terror and abuse she has endured. Her cries of “I don’t eat, I don’t sleep, I don’t eat, I don’t sleep I let it consume me!” twist the entire front row into a trance, and the previously riotous audience falls silent. We’ve all been there, but how many of us have been brave enough to send our anger out into the world, instead of inwards at ourselves? Not many.
Hayter switches perspectives flawlessly. “Who will love you if I don’t? Who will fuck you if I don’t?” she screams, from MAY FAILURE BE YOUR NOOSE – merely surfacing the truth of this awful words she experienced for judgement. Standing up and saying, yeah. Me. Too. You judge for yourself.
Ultimately, we acknowledge, there’s no getting over things till we rip them out of ourselves. Because there’s one more thing about furious women. It’s that they, absolutely, irreversibly, end up changing the world. As for Lingua Ignota, well – to get up every night and say hey, this is what happened to me, you are not alone – is a bravery seen in only the strongest of individuals. Long may this strength continue.