“for a work in progress performance, it fairs rather well”
There’s a new queer and feminist theatre festival in town. Erase Erase Erupt, is a platform for artists to test out new work focusing on queerness, sexual assault, gender identity and more. The brainchild of Pink Freud Theatre Company, it is a free-spirited affair that’s inclusive to all. As well as being producers, Pink Freud also have their own work in progress show as part of the line up, ‘Fight Flight Freeze Fuck’.
Nine coloured envelopes hang on a washing line, each containing the personal account of an incident of sexual assault, rape, besmirched consent that has happened in the past to the actors Riz Davis and Amelia Brown. One by one each story is randomly chosen to be read with no details left out. As much as the piece highlights troubling behaviour and horrific codes of conduct, it also focuses on kindness, support, and the strength that comes from listening to one another.
Relaxed and inviting, this is a safe space for explicit and uncomfortable details to be voiced. Trigger warnings are mentioned before each story is read, and an open house policy for anyone who wants to leave if they feel the tale will bring up any past memories is also in place. Steps are constantly taken to assure nobody is affected or offended. This is less like traditional performance and instead, is an amalgamation of different art styles. Audience participation is done in a gentle form (handing bags filled with props to the actors) which never feels uncomfortable or evasive for those audience members who are terrified of being involved.
Inviting a male actor to read the stories, which have consciously been written from the perspective of the perpetrator, is a refreshing and far more impactful choice. With the two women not voicing their own stories directly, it actually magnifies the disgusting nature of the assaults. Particularly the blasé attitudes of the men who believe themselves innocent in all of the incidents. It also allows some distance for the actors from their incredibly personal material.
Davis and Brown find some original ways of interpreting the stories through performance art-like actions, which, done successfully, captures these two women’s inner feelings within each story. Sometimes this doesn’t always happen and the abstract moves lose their significance.
Some of the stories edge on being too similar, which makes you question whether it was really adding anything to the piece. Yes, these are all truthful, personal accounts experienced by the actors, but at the end of the day, this is a performance and not therapy. Perhaps a wider net of stories from a wider range of women would be the next step for progressing this show.
All in all, for a work in progress performance, it fairs rather well. Pink Freud certainly have some imaginative and engaging ways of making difficult and hard to swallow subject matters actually entertaining. It will be compelling to see what journey the show goes on from here on in.
“an evocative commentary on ever present class divides”
School can conjure up some of our best and worst memories from our lives. A microcosmic little bubble that can be supportive and caring yet also brutally totalitarian. In Iseult Golden and David Horan’s jointly written and directed award winning play, Class, they thoughtfully question how much the education system has truly changed and whether school can ever erase social divides.
Brian (Stephen Jones) and his estranged wife Donna (Sarah Morris) are back in their old school to meet with their nine-year old son’s teacher, Mr Ray McCafferty (Will O’Connell). With tension already high between the recently separated couple, when Mr McCafferty drops the bombshell that their son Jayden is struggling with the schoolwork and suggests an educational psychologist to determine any issues, the shock and fear riles up into heated discussion. Particularly as Brian and Donna have never liked school, and have never trusted men in suits who use long words instead of getting straight to the point. As the parent-teacher meeting soon crumbles, we cut to Homework Club where Jayden and classmate Kaylie (also played by Jones and Morris) are gradually improving their reading and writing, whilst innocently revealing snapshots of their home life.
Set in the classroom, with traditional wooden chairs and wall-wrapping chalk boards, the building is haunted with memories from the austere, ‘olden days’. This clashes with Mr McCafferty’s more progressive standards of teaching. The enclosed nature of the classroom, jumps from being the secure haven of Homework Club, where the pupils voice their doubts and fears, to a highly claustrophobic and tense environment between volatile parent and condescending teacher. Set designer Maree Kearns makes sure the space can enable this flip flop from the two which is an engaging, and excitable gear change to the story narrative.
Jones and Morris effortlessly shapeshift between playing parent and child that precisely demonstrates how adults and kids see the world differently. You easily forget it’s the same pair of actors. Hardly ever leaving the stage, their metamorphosis happens before the audience’s eyes but this is never jolting nor detracts from the believability. Jones and Morris’ accurate depiction of the funny things kids say and do are spot on, particularly Morris as the dance obsessed Kaylie.
Will O’Connell’s teacher Ray McCafferty is frustratingly caught between eagerly wanting to help his students and what, in this day and age, is deemed as a step too far. O’Connell skilfully navigates his characters ambiguous nature clearly filled with many complexities and hurt. All performances from this three-person cast are impeccable, generously playing off of one another.
Golden and Horan have created an evocative commentary on ever present class divides, and the stigma around learning difficulties, or ‘differences’ as Mr McCafferty would correct me to say. Written with a well-observed eye, and with perceptive performances given, Class is a concise exploration, that never tries to educate you on the issues acknowledged .