On the 26th October I had the chance to go see Erin Markey’s BONER KILLER at The Marlborough. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a show with such an interesting title; nonetheless I wanted to keep an open mind. The performer has been described as having “laser-beam eyes, a hair-raising singing voice, and an intense, almost predatory sexuality.  Markey’s uncanny self-possession goes hand in hand with perverse, non-sequitur humor that keeps her audience laughing, if unsettled” writes Michael Schulman of The New Yorker. Even from this description, I hadn’t pictured how outrageous and interactive the show would be.

The best way to describe the style of the show would be to call it a one woman-stand-up-cabaret-musical performance piece. It blends into different genres, and Markey’s monologue scenes do have a very stand-up comedic feel to them.

I may have expected the show to be funny and entertaining but I didn’t anticipate how interactive the performer would be with the audience. The opening immediately addressed this; Markey walks onto the stage and starts talking about her funeral. She makes us pass around and sign a sheet of paper to agree to attend and plan her funeral, so of course I signed the piece of paper. Then she went through the rehearsal of her funeral which she called ‘a rehearsal within a rehearsal’, adding much to the ridiculousness. She asked everyone in the audience to look at everyone else in the room in the eyes at the exact same time. Being the cosy upstairs theatre that it was – and with the use of the bright lights – it was very easy to see everyone, which made it even more uncomfortable. Of course our task was an impossible one, which was part of the comical affect. I think there was also an intention to make the audience uncomfortable and aware of each other.

Markey wasn’t too impressed with our attempt, so moved onto inviting an audience member onto the stage. He had to help bring her body up from her coffin and turn her head to face the audience. This was very funny to watch as the audience member followed Markey’s absurd requests. Other moments where the performer interacted with the audience involved her bringing around a baby toy for the audience to put money in. This was brought back later on when she got an audience member to lift her body and put money into a hole in her trousers about her crotch.

Thankfully this section only required 4 audience members and I wasn’t one of them! But you know when you see a performance and you just know you are going to get picked on but really don’t want to? Well that happened to me. Markey came down from the stage in an attempt to find ‘her girl’. In that moment I knew she would pick on me, and she did. She addressed me by what I was wearing and asked “Are you my girl?”. Everyone turned around and looked at me, so my only response was “no” which had everyone laughing. It was funny but I was dying inside.

Despite that, I felt lucky that I wasn’t the audience member who had to go on stage, with her face covered, Markey sitting on her and being instructed to hug Markey while she sang and danced. It was clear Markey had a strong intention to involve the audience; the reason behind it I’m not entirely sure. But I felt a strong sense that this was almost a kind of outlet for Markey. She is putting all her fantasies and desires out there and addressing the struggle there is in the world to have these desires.

The rest of Markey’s performance involved a monologue about sex work, her fantasies, being queer and turning into her aunt, whom she looks up to. Then she’d break out into musical segments, alongside musician and singer Emily Bate. I really enjoyed the musical elements, and the songs were really well performed, nice to listen to and funny.

The whole performance was crazy and strange, and there were certainly some puzzling and bizarre moments towards the end where Markey fully expressed herself. I feel there was an intention for these moments, even though much of the audience were left questioning what was going on. It was a performance piece about Markey’s life. Markey mentions having therapy and makes light of the darker parts of her life. I admire her courage to delve deep on stage and expose herself; I find her as a performer very talented and fun to watch. I really enjoyed watching this show, even though I questioned at times what exactly was going on.

Image Credit: John Keon

About the author

Alex Hutson

Leave a Reply