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Play explores the art of erotic bondage known as Shibari

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Even for the fringe festival, a show structured around the subject of bondage is... out there.

The topic is fraught with tension that doesn't necessarily refer to the tautness of rope. Bondage raises scary issues of power, abuse and objectification.

The show 340 ft., playing at Venue 11 at Red River College, could be described as a not-entirely-gentle introduction to the art of Shibari, an intricate form of tying people up as practised for centuries in Japan.

"We are pretty sure it's the first time for something like this at the fringe," says the show's creator, Martin Kolbus. "We sincerely hope that we are the fringe of the fringe."

Kolbus, 50, came to Shibari in his capacity as a photographer specializing in "portraiture, boudoir and female beauty."

"I realized there was something missing from the regular pure art nude, that there was some kind of interaction needed for juxtaposition," he says. "I'd been aware of (Shibari) for a long time but I discovered that rope makes a beautiful contrast and at the same time a completion to the female body. So I started shooting it more and more and used my rope skill and expanded my rope skill over time.

"At some moment, knowing about the fringe festival, I came up with an idea of creating a Shibari-based fringe play," he says. "So I called a friend of mine who is also knowledgable about the matter and we managed to make a story out of it, to make it coherent, to make an idea and make it something fleshed out as a play."

Actress Erin Kiazyk, 21, who has worked in theatre for the past few years as a makeup artist, makes her fringe stage debut in the play being tied up in a form-fitting gold lamé bodysuit. While a bound woman usually registers as a victim in mainstream culture, Kiazyk asserts her participation in the realm of Shibari is very much a personal choice.

"It's really beautiful and it's one of my favourite things to do, definitely," she says. "I claim my sexual power through being submissive by choice.

"It's mostly about choice. If I choose to be the dominant, if I choose to be submissive, it's my choice," she says. "I can be the one running the show even if I'm being tied up and, basically, it is the submissive running the show, because as soon as they're uncomfortable, it's done. It has to stop."

For both Kolbus and Kiazyk, the show provides a more positive view of bondage, as opposed to its more exploitative manifestation in the bestselling potboiler novel Fifty Shades of Grey, which Kolbus dismisses as the story of "an abusive relationship between an immature woman and a powerful man."

"It's really infuriating reading, that book," says Kiazyk. "It's a total misrepresentation of the whole BDSM community."

340 ft., Kolbus asserts, describes more subtle interplay between informed, consenting adults.

"It's about the interaction between two people and how they exchange energy between themselves," he says.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 22, 2014 C5

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