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Homophobic attack becomes East London street theatre

PUBLISHED: 12:00 12 March 2016

Nando Messias performance at Toynbee studio. Photo: Loredana Denicola: Chris Daly

Nando Messias performance at Toynbee studio. Photo: Loredana Denicola: Chris Daly

© Loredana Denicola

Not every victim of a homophobic attack is able to compute his experience into a bold provocative performance.

Nando Messias performance at Toynbee studio. Photo: Loredana Denicola: Chris DalyNando Messias performance at Toynbee studio. Photo: Loredana Denicola: Chris Daly

But this is exactly what artist Nando Messias has done in The Sissy’s Progress – ten tears after he was beaten up on his own doorstep.

Nando, who identifies as queer, was wearing make-up and what he described as a “garish” get-up when he was cornered by a gang of eight men and left beaten and badly bruised in broad daylight.

“I took a wrong turn and bumped into this gang of young men who picked on me,” said Nando, 42, who still lives in the Hackney flat near the scene of the assault.

“They cornered me and hid my escape, I was really scared.”

This week at the Toynbee Studios, Nando will take the audience out to the same place where he was attacked – and relive it when his live marching band become his aggressors.

“There were eight of them,” remembers Nando.

“They started shouting obscenities. What they were trying to do is get a reaction so they had an excuse to beat me up.

“They were very close to my face and shouted very loudly. When I didn’t react they got angry, they started beating me, I was pushed to the ground, left badly bruised.”

Nando was unable to leave his house for three weeks – and would need a further ten years to process the trauma into art.

“I needed that long in terms of getting distance from that event and getting an understanding of what happened and detach from the personal, and so to process artistically what happened,” he said.

Why is the term “sissy” used in a performance that confronts gender expectations?

“I’m a choreographer and dancer, I understand things through my body,” explains Nando, who was born in Brazil.

“I walk like a sissy, like a girl, so I tried to break down what makes it a sissy’s walk. The next step was trying to control that that so I don’t stand out.

“I realised that I can’t do that, I can’t make my body behave in a way that it doesn’t behave.”

Nando’s realisation prompted him to embrace, rather than spurn his body.

“I latched onto the idea of turning up the volume. This was why I started looking at my body as a representation of a Marching Band.”

Expect a half-walking, half-dance performance which exposes you to the cruel realities of city life, with original music by Jordan Hunt.

Book £10 tickets for next Thursday and Friday night, March at 7, 7.30 and 7.45pm at artsadmin.co.uk.


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