Loose, Wet, Perforated is a contemporary version of the medieval morality play, full of all the moral relativism which that implies. A kaleidoscope of genres – tragedy, comedy, self-reflexive farce, academic treatise, cheap erotica – it tries to make sense of our post-ethical, post-analytical world. The story revolves around two very different characters, Loose and Wet. Loose is a force of nature, prepared to do anything to anyone to get what she wants, while Wet is something of an innocent, always sticking to what he believes is right. Through a series of ordeals, they vie for ascendancy within a Guild whose purpose and inner workings remain obscure. The dramatic focus is instead their shared ambition: to be ‘made whole’, or in other words, gain a sense of fulfillment from their closed little world. As the contest progresses, it is clear Loose’s ruthlessness is eminently more effective than the piety of Wet. But is there a proverbial glass ceiling to Loose’s rise? Will success or failure in this particular game result in anything more than success or failure in this particular game?
Parallel and perpendicular to this rivalry is the trajectory of the story’s narrator-cum-commentator. Ze begins as the picture of impartiality: gender neutral, a mere observer of the protagonists’ actions and desires. As events unfold, however, a need is awoken in this individual, the need to belong, contribute, live. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ze is overtly drawn to Loose, whose naked lust for power is both seductive and energizing. Not only does this character increasingly sympathize with Loose, mirroring our potential investment as audience members, but Ze ends up actively aiding and abetting her. Their fates thus become inextricably intertwined.
How exactly everything works out for these three is best left to the recording. Nevertheless, it is worth describing the end of the opera, which stretches beyond the narrative arc. Once all is said and done, we find ourselves in a state of déjà vu, with the repetition of the opening scene and the (re)introduction of characters. There is one major difference, however: while the same individuals are presented, their roles have been swapped around. This is final affirmation that the opera’s formal qualities – the stylized language and scenarios, the anachronisms of the setting – are mythic constructs, rather than misguided verismo. Even more significantly, the final scene acts as a concluding and transcending statement; that anyone, regardless of appearance or affiliation, could end up Loose, Wet or Perforated.
The Narrator opens proceedings in bombastic fashion, introducing the two main protagonists, Loose and Wet. They are to endure four Ordeals in the quest for the ultimate prize, “to be made whole.”
A Guildhall materializes. The nature of the Guild itself is unclear…
Ordeal I ’The Cross’
The Guild’s Grand Master, tired of official duties, proposes Loose and Wet compete for the chance to be his (her?) degenerate companion. The two battle it out in a slandering contest, seeing who can more viciously badmouth a saint, and in the process sicken the other. Loose wins, her tongue clearly the sharper, and is promoted to Master. She wonders, nevertheless, about the source of her dark ambition… Wet, meanwhile, is grappling with certain moral realities. The Narrator nefariously suggests he might heal the world by journeying out into it.
Ordeal II ‘Ingestion’
Wet travels around, collecting tales of woe from unfortunates. Realizing the only way he can help them is by appealing to Loose, now a Guild Master, he returns and relays their plight. Little does he know Loose is responsible, one way or another, for all their ill fortune… At first, Loose enjoys this irony, but then guilt takes hold. Furious, she turns on the Narrator, blaming her (him?) for such feelings. The Narrator frantically points the finger at Wet. Eventually calming down, Loose dumps the blame on her victims and so wins the Ordeal. Wet, his eyes opened to the ways of the world, wallows in despair.
Ordeal III 'Fire’
Still smarting from the guilt Wet forced upon her, Loose plots revenge, with guidance from the Narrator. A prostitute is sent to seduce Wet into a fake love-match, the plan being to reveal this trickery afterwards and so cause him great pain. The tartlet employs three kinds of love – sexual, spousal, spiritual – but to no avail. Finally, Wet is won over by pity, and he and his dishonest amour rejoice in their newfound bond. Loose and her co-conspirators then gleefully reveal their deception. Wet, however, is unfazed, as he is happy just to love. It is an empty victory for Loose. Enraged, she blames the prostitute for the plan’s failure…
Loose chases the tartlet with intent to kill. Wet tries to stop her, but she is eventually successful…
Ordeal IV ’Water’
The Narrator implores the Guild’s Grand High Master (formerly just Grand) to protect Loose from the law. The Grand High Master is amenable until (s)he realizes the dead tartlet is a favourite of his (hers?). Livid, (s)he calls for a trial. Loose and Wet are then asked a probing question… The latter is silent, but the former babbles, which the Grand High Master reads as guilt. Loose flies into a rage, but is calmed down with another chance. A second question, however, produces the same result. Loose again loses control and works herself so much into a frenzy, she attacks her only supporter, the Narrator.
Loose and Wet have an epiphany: that the world is not wholesome, but rather, like the erstwhile Narrator… Perforated.
The Wheel of Fortune turns… Perforated becomes Wet, Loose becomes Perforated, Wet becomes Loose.
The (new) Narrator closes proceedings in bombastic fashion, pointing out the two main protagonists, (new) Loose and Wet.
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