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The Show About Dominance and Submission - Ira Brand on 'Ways to Submit'

Ira is an artist, performance-maker, writer, and curator. She creates live interdisciplinary performances that are rooted in a fascination with what it means and feels like to be human. Her process is one of using the personal to speak to wider social, political, and formal concerns. Her current preoccupation is power and how it is constructed, transferred, enacted, and held – specifically through language, gender and desire.

Ira’s work has toured the UK extensively and has been shown internationally at Malavoadora Porto, Matadero Madrid, Kanagawa Arts Theatre Yokohama, Hessisches Landestheater Marburg, and Abrons Arts Centre New York.

She is also one of the co-directors of Forest Fringe, an award-winning artist-led collective with whom she has delivered projects as an artist and curator throughout the UK and internationally.


A few years ago I was making a show that started out being about the idea of ‘being yourself’, and turned out to be about gender, sexuality, power, and desire. This is often the way with me, that I don’t always know what the most important ideas in a show are from the outset, that the heart of the work reveals itself some way into the process. A making process for me, as for many artists I expect, is often about learning to be okay with that uncertainty.

Subsequently I have thought more and more about the relationships between gender, power, and desire, both in my personal life and in terms of the art I have been making. This is also often the way, my living and my making bleed into each other, and I rarely feel a curiosity satisfied or an idea ‘done with’ by the process of making a show. It’s more like adding fuel to the fire.

Last year I was doing some research around how power is felt and enacted and – through an unexpected detour via the myth of Persephone – I started to become interested, more specifically, in notions of dominance and submission. I wanted to think about how these forces operate in a range of different contexts: personally, socially, politically. And I wanted to think about how they are experienced in different ways: through our words, or through our bodies, for example, or through the structures we build in the world.

I began exploring activities that consciously and deliberately make use of dominance and submission in the realms of sport and sexuality, such as some martial arts and erotic or kink practices. They might seem like unusual things to place alongside each other, or to consider similar, but I was curious how both of them deal with negotiation and explicit consent, and how they can provide a space for an (often fluid, shifting) playing in power dynamics, albeit in very different ways.

Ways To Submit is not about Persephone. At all. But it is about these kinds of practices and spaces, and how (or whether) they can have wider value, can echo out, having a meaningful impact on how we choose to act and live in the world. It is also about this idea of ‘play’, proposing playing as a strategy for understanding and engaging with structures of power. Not ‘play’ as a way of dismissing something as not serious, but ‘play’ as a way of bringing in enjoyment and pleasure, and imagination, as important strategies too.

In making Ways To Submit I tried to find a form that would allow for play, and the show invites some audience participation. Because of this it obviously has a degree of unpredictability to it, and I am having to learn to be okay with uncertainty in a much more immediate way. Not just in the process but in the performance itself, and not just in terms of what will actually happen but potentially also in terms of what the piece will reveal itself to be about each night.

I hope it will offer me more fuel.

Ira Brand
Ways to Submit
Tue 05 - Sat 09 Feb
at The Yard Theatre
Info and Tickets: theyardtheatre.co.uk

Ira Brand | @irabrand