Dramaturgical Analysis, Fragmentary Response, history, personal, Politics

nic green’s trilogy, naked bodies, badass babes and a feminist heritage

trilogy crowd

Trilogy

A before thought:

I’d been told Trilogy was like a festival; a joyous, celebratory riot of female flesh.

I needed that. I bought a ticket instantly.

The last few weeks have been awash with general-purpose sorrow. Perhaps it is just the cold sinking in through my always-too-thin clothes (I never learnt to layer) or perhaps the constant grey above me just seeped in.

But there was something else: I’ve been grieving my body.

I used to berate my body constantly. I was young then and just learning to live out of home, just working out how to feed myself and who I was without a school uniform.

I remember being pretty confident in my body for a while there. Not ‘confident’ so much as ‘unthinking’. Then I emerged from teenage-hood and took off my clothes for cameras and things change. My body changed – I got thin and sleek and hairless – but I also became much more aware of it. I saw myself from every angle. And it was mostly a good sight although I still apologised to photographers every time I took off my clothes:

“Sorry, I just ate lunch.”

“That’s okay.”

“Thank you. Sorry, again.”

But I’m learning something about aging and bodies: accepting your body isn’t a one-time thing. You don’t make peace with it once at twenty-two, tick that off your list and get on with your life. For some of us – perhaps all of us, I don’t know – as your body changes you need to accept it again and again.

And again.

Hello, Body

This is who you are right now, hey?

Yeah

This is who I am right now

You good with that?

Working on it

Same

 

My colleague told me the work filled her up. Re-plenished her. I wanted that.

I want a lot of re- words in my life right now:

Restore, renew, recharge, reward, replenish, reinvigorate, requestion, re-forgive, re-embrace.

Those are some big ‘re’s to ask of a piece of theatre.

trilogy five

Trilogy

A during thought:

Watch me swing from emotion to emotion

Beaming

Crying

Beaming again

I oscillate wildly

Eyes and mouth wide

 

The sight of those bodies

Dozens and dozens of them

A mass of joy and fearless flesh

Filled me up

 

The total miracle that a woman’s body is

Not just because it can ‘be life’

(Although, what a privilege it was to see one of the makers perform pregnant)

But because it bares her

Bodies that carry women through this world

Holy shit

trilogy kicks

Trilogy

The first act culminates in an incredible dance party. At interval we wondered at the positioning of this moment so early in the piece: you couldn’t top that. We had simply never seen anything like it. How could any sight or words match it as a final image?

By the end of the work I knew why we started with this dance of pure delight.

As a feminist and female artist, I often ask myself how do I tell stories of female victimisation without making females the victims. Over the course of the next two acts we saw incredible footage of Norman Mailer attempting repeatedly to silence and shame Jill Johnston (“Come on, Jill. Be a lady.”), we heard grief, rage and truly terrible statistics on sexual violence. I cried when the performers intoned ‘2016’ again and again. The number seemed suddenly so very big, the years so innumerable and yet here we are, still hurting. Still being hurt.

But the overall feeling that one takes from this work is joy, strength and power. The performer never appear disempowered. They are whole-heartedly empowered, their bodies strong, their voices loud, their vision clear, their heritage known.

Women are gutsy motherfuckers. So why did they start with the biggest single image in the show? We needed to set a tone of love, courage, joy and strength. They started by stating a fact: women and their bodies are badass. Got it? Good. Okay. Lets go.

 

An afterthought:

I left the theatre with the desperate urge to call my mother. The feminist who raised me, whose strong body and bore three feminist daughters, whose mind is fierce and whose heart is massive. I spoke to her at the bus stop. “I wish you had been there. I would have loved to see that with you.” Beside me, another woman was on the phone. “There was – like – fifty naked women! Dancing! And the singing! I wish you had seen it!” And I just knew she was talking to her mother too. This was a show that made you want to call your mum, share this with her and thank.

It made me want to thank a lot of women. And myself. And my body. It carries me through this world. What a miracle that is.

 

Feminism: demonstration for women's voting rights in London: Suffragette discharged by the police. - Published by 'Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung' 12/1906- 04.1906

London, 1906, Published by ‘Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung’

I saw Nic Green’s Trilogy at Artshouse in Melbourne. I thank them for programming this incredible and important work.

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Politics, Theatre, writing

on angry sexx, tripped, racism, feminism and urgency

It is that time of the year when I miss more theatre than I could ever possibly see. To make up for my absence, I asked two young theatre makers about their new work, why it is urgent and what Australian theatre needs more of. These are both works with such driving passion and they feel so necessary. They are born of Australian culture both past and very, very present. I’m so thrilled this kind of work is being made, even if I can’t see the blasted things. Enjoy and go see some blistering new Australian theatre. 

Rachel Perks, playwright and performer, ANGRY SEXX

ANGRY SEXX is a dark trashy comedy about the frightening places women find themselves in. It uses both spoken text that I have written and physical text devised with Bridget Balodis and the actors. It has bad dancing, pop music and very very very adult themes.

ANGRY SEXX, promo image by Sarah Walker

ANGRY SEXX, promo image by Sarah Walker

Why was this the story you needed to tell? What is urgent about it?

The other day, while waiting to start the tech for ANGRY SEXX I was sitting with fellow human being Bridget Balodis, minding our own business and having a coffee on Errols St. A man walked up to us, paused, looked us up and down and said “hello ladies.” I just stared at him- speechless. You see there is a scene in the play depicting a very similar encounter that ends very badly for the man.

This man, sensing he was unwelcome, started to walk past us but turned back to yell “You should say hello back! It’s what makes Australia a great country.” I cracked and giggled a little at the absurdity of the scene- who was this man and why did I owe him my attention?

At that point the man turned, filled with bruised ego vitriol and yelled “Fuck you, you fucking cunts!”

The whole encounter happened in the space of about thirty seconds in broad daylight outside a cafe.

A few of you will probably think I should have just said hello- that I provoked him, that I was being rude. Perhaps you’ll wonder what I was wearing that so caught his attention? A part of me thinks the same things too. And that’s why I’m making this show. Because the logic is warped, the standards are double and the lines have been blurred. Because I’m figuring this stuff out as I go and I want to talk about it. It took me a long time to adopt the name of feminist and I’m making up for lost time.

How has this production changed you?

This process has showed me the joy of true collaboration. Of working with strong rebellious and outspoken women and with beautiful, intelligent, compassionate men. It has also helped me understand what the hell a dramaturg does. Sort of.

The most challenging part of the process has been trusting my own writing. To be performing your own words, to be fighting for them and believing in them and throwing yourself off the cliff with them is hard. But it feels good when you manage it.

What does Melbourne theatre need more of?

New writing. Political choices. Stubborn attitudes. Female leadership. Laughs. 

To book for ANGRY SEXX, click here.

Fiona Spitzkowsky, assistant director, TRIPPED

The seeds for this play were planted in playwright Nick Musgrove’s brain when he was in high school, after studying Norm and Ahmed in class. No one in his class predicted the violent ending and yet everyone accepted it.

A year ago, he found himself thinking of the Buzos’ play after race relations become a major playing card in the 2013 elections. He began discussions with director Celeste Cody about the idea of theatrically ‘checking in’ with Norm and Ahmed 30 years after they first appeared on Australian stages, to see just how far we’ve come.

TRIPPED promo image by Sarah Walker

TRIPPED promo image by Sarah Walker

Last week the Australian government raised the terror alert level to high. A short time later there were massive police raids on alleged Islamic terror groups. Since then there have been multiple incidents of racially motivated violence.

Tripped tells a story that is urgent, but not just because of the events that have happened in the past week, or in the past year, or in the past thirty years. Racial discrimination, violence and aggressive masculine culture have plagued us for centuries. We need to tell this story because it’s the same story we’ve been telling all this time, and we still haven’t found a happy ending.

What have you learnt from this production? How has it changed you?

This play tells us what we already (should) know: racism is just a form of ignorance, and that extremists exist in every culture, and should not be taken as a representation of the beliefs and behaviours of the greater cohort. But what Tripped has taught me is how quickly we can allow ourselves to be distracted from underlying issues. We see two men onstage, bristling with rage and the potential for violence, but after a light moment, a moment of laughter, we relax and think that everything will be fine now that we’ve had a laugh together, not realising that the core issues are still there, ready to explode to the surface again, with dire consequences.

This is how the play is structured for dramatic purposes, but this may also be how we function in real life, how our media feeds us information: we sit through the news of war in the Middle East and raids in our cities, but it all finishes with a fluff piece so that we can continue with evenings unperturbed.

Also, I learnt that it is impossible to give prop guns to a male cast without there being a lot of hollering and dick jokes.

What does Melbourne theatre need more of?

Personally, I would say new Australian writing. It is so important to be empowering young and emerging artists by allowing them to present their voice onstage. It is empowering for the community as well, as they get to hear voices that are current and relevant to them.

But, having worked with Ezel Doruk on this project, and comparing his experiences in the industry with that of the other two (white) cast members, I would also say that we need more diversity in the stories we tell, and colour blind, yet culturally aware, casting.

To book for TRIPPED, click here

Both plays opened last night in the Fringe hub and run until September 4th. 

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Politics, Sex

Many of you are not Australian so perhaps you are unaware of the murder of Gillian Meagher last year in my home city but if you are Australian or Irish (Jill’s country of origin) you will know every detail of the case. Jill Meagher’s murder touched my city deeply.  She was walking home after a few drinks with workmates in Brunswick.  The distance was very small (barely a few hundred meters) but after leaving her friends she was brutally raped and murdered by Adrian Bayley and her body was dumped in a shallow grave.  A week after her disappearance 30 000 people walked down the main street in Brunswick in her memory and to speak out against violence towards women.  To reclaim the streets.

Her murderer turned out to be a man with significant history of sexual violence who was on parole at the time after raping several sex workers.  This week he was sentenced to life with a 35-year minimum non-parole period.   This is far from the maximum sentence for such crimes.

Her incredible husband, speaking to ABC said this of the sentencing:  “I don’t know what the maximum penalty is for if it’s not for that man. I don’t know who else could fit the bill of a maximum sentence for rape than Adrian Ernest Bayley…. This man is unrepentantly evil. He’s been let off too many times by our justice system…  It sends out a really dangerous message to society, I think, if you do this. I mean, I’m aware that his previous victims in the previous case before Jill were sex workers and I’ll never be convinced that that had nothing to do with the leniency of his sentence, which as I said, send as very disturbing message. What it says to women is “Be careful what you do, ’cause if we don’t like what you do, you won’t get justice.” And then what it says to people like Bayley is not, “Don’t rape”, but, “Be careful who you rape.””

Tom Meagher. What an amazing man.

In a recent interview, an unnamed stripper whom Bayley used to visit and simulate strangulation on said tearfully that she thinks about “how if it had been me, the publicity wouldn’t have been the same. There wouldn’t have been 30,000 people walking down Sydney Road because of it. There wouldn’t have been this massive uproar about it and trying to find out who it was and trying to find her body and things because there is that attitude that she’s just a stripper, she’s just a sex worker, she’s a slut it doesn’t matter.  I’ve thought about that a lot of times.”

I can’t help but think back to Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut, 1969 one of my favourite books in existence) in which a trashy sci-fi writer writes of an alien race who come down to earth and see that the New Testament is full of loops. They can see, with their outsider’s wisdom that the intent of the Gospels is to teach people to be merciful, even to the lowest of the low but, what they really teach is that before you kill somebody, you’d better make sure he isn’t well connected. Christ didn’t look like much but he was the son of the most powerful being in the universe.

So they write us a new gospel. One where Jesus is a total bum with no connections but he says all the lovely, puzzling things he said in the other Gospels. And one day the people amuse themselves by nailing him to a cross and planting the cross in the ground because, well there couldn’t be any repercussions, could there? Jesus was a nobody. The Gospel of the Plumber’s Friends-shaped aliens told us so. But just before Bum Jesus died the heavens opened and there was thunder and there was lightening and the voice of God came crashing down and he said ‘Hey’ and he said he was adopting Bum Jesus as his son and giving him full powers and privileges of The Son of Creator of the Universe. He said ‘Bum Jesus will punish horribly anybody who torments Bum Anybody from now until all eternity.’

It is heartbreaking how little consideration is given to the rape of sex workers. My heart goes out to Tom and Jill’s family but it also goes out to the sex workers, the homeless and the addicts who are seeing this as further proof that nobody cares what happens to them.

We are living in horrifically misogynistic times.  Hatred of women is rife.  Victim-blaming is still a big part of our culture.  In Australia, our female Prime Minister (our first ever) is regularly objectified and sexualised.  (If you are not up to date on Australian politics, try googling ‘Julia Gillard menugate’ but, be warned: if you have a moral bone in your body, it will enrage and sicken you.) One in four women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.   In America, someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes.  A couple of months ago we were visited by a peeping tom.  He watched me through my bedroom window until my housemate coming home surprised him and he ran off.  That he was getting off on seeing me completely unguarded terrifies me and his sense of entitlement, to invade my home and privacy sickens me to this day.   We now have a big padlock on our gate.

Last night, friend of mine told me that she had been having panic attacks all week.  She went to her therapist who told her that women all around Melbourne have been exhibiting similar PTSD-like symptoms recently and that she and her fellow therapists have been inundated.  The combination of the sexual vilification of our Prime Minister and the sentencing of Bayley filling our papers and news outlets has just reminded women all over the city/country how unsafe we feel.  Even the most powerful woman in the country is abused in sexually explicate terms.  Whether you disagree with her policies or not, this should be unacceptable.  It is shameful.  It shames me.

I want to draw your attention to an incredibly important project going on right now on the Internet.  It is so timely and so important.  These are students from beautiful Oxford University holding up signs explaining why they personally need feminism.   Read it and speak up.     

 

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