Okay. What if, for one year, no actress was killed or raped?
I’ve been thinking this for a while. For the last two years I’ve been looking around, often on opening nights, often with wine in my hand, and wondering ‘If I were to ask her right now how many times she’s been killed on stage, what would her answer be?’ Often. I forget. The first time I was 18. Strangled. Stabbed. Shot. Drowned.
Two years ago, I decided to stop writing her death and violation. I didn’t suggest that others do this because there are plenty of valid reasons to depict these horrors on our stages. These stories are a massive and hideous part of our society and isn’t it the role of art to examine darkness and demand change?
But maybe my awareness is already raised. Maybe I’m reading enough accounts of real assault and violation happening off our stages and on them. I am bearing witness. Maybe paying money to see that actress have her knickers pulled down or that one pulled by her hair (carefully choreographed of course) feels gratuitous when a man really could assault actresses in front of an audience of 2000 on a Melbourne stage in 2014.
Actors are gutsy people. And most know how to look after themselves in the wake of dramatised violence. I have nothing but respect for the women who can do this and stay sane. I couldn’t. So I’m not saying this because they need my protection, by any means. But maybe the support would be appreciated.
Because ours is not the only industry where violence against women happens. But for better or for worse in the last 12 months female actors have been on the front line. They have been incredible and we have all benefitted from their courage and determination. And some people have praised them. Others have called their courage a desperate attempt to make money, grab fame, jump on bandwagons.
Now I know my ban won’t happen. Theatres have programmed their seasons and you’ve signed your contracts. Maybe you’ve even pre-booked. But for a second just imagine a world where we said to female actors ‘thanks. I think you’ve done enough. We won’t ask you to not only be the loudest voices, not only to put your jobs on the line and risk your professional relationship but also to physically represent the violence of our society nightly. How about we do this other play. These other twenty plays in which you get to survive and thrive. Take a break. We’ve got this.’
It won’t happen. And fuck, imagine how much of the canon would disappear instantly if it did. But I like imaging a world where it might.