A STAGE OF ONE’S OWN
18/08/2015 - 22/08/2015
See the strength of four directors at BATS Theatre this month, in a fiery new theatre production that is sure to open a dialogue wider than the current gender pay gap.
Pat-A-Cake Productions curate their new show A Stage of One’s Own, which honours gender fair-play and presents a chance for new-to-the-scene women to generate devised theatre with gusto. Framed as a collaborative festival, A Stage of One’s Own will open a safe space and grant radical permission for honesty to emerge. The multi-part festival will be carried by four casts whose performances; weather clown or confessional, seek truth in question, holding open the door for anyone and everyone to engage.
Bop Murdoch, artistic director of Pat-A-Cake Productions, recognizes the need for talented, emerging creatives to be spurred into action in supportive, rather than competitive environments. “We wanted to create a performance that confronts the darkness that exists around our experiences of gender,” says Bop. “So we’ve brought together four fresh-in-the-field talentresses who each get to direct one piece of the pie.”
The Directors, Lily della Porta, Sabrina Martin, Jody Burrell and Bea Joblin are finding new ways to work, both together and independently. “These women are inspiring individuals uncovering their capable identities. We’re urging them to build their own theatre-making processes from within a collective project, so their craving for collaboration can be satisfied on a deeper level,” says Bop.
A Stage of One’s Own uses elements of Tikanga Māori combined with Pat-A-Cake Productions’ own kaupapa for devising relevant, movement-based theatre. The result is a performance that hails difference over sameness, discarding the traditional four-act structure, and experimenting instead with the form of a miniature four-part festival focussed on celebrating the curvaceous realities of collaboration.
“This festival is a chance to get together and continue the important wānanga of women in the world, and provides a rare chance to see a collection of female forces in performance.”
18-22 August, 7:00pm
BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace
Book online www.bats.co.nz
or call (04) 802 4175
Great contribution to ongoing conversation, experimentation, discovery, change
Review by Lena Fransham 19th Aug 2015
Once I was in a devised production about a futuristic separatist world. Male cast members provided offstage sound support. One male actor had an onstage role, but it was overwhelmingly a women’s show. I felt it was unfair for my teenage male castmates to be marginalised by their gender. Perhaps I’m remembering wrong but it was as if, in the devising, there was a collective assumption that as a feminist production it had to reduce male characters to stick figures and present a simplistic, over-idealised female world.
If history is a monologue, then yes, it’s either your voice that gets heard or mine. But if history is a conversation then it’s a lot more interesting, not to mention productive, if everyone gets to be present. If we want to make progress on big issues we need to recognise lazy reasoning that precludes real democratic inquiry into better ways to be.
These are just some thoughts since going to A Stage of One’s Own, a mini-festival of four devised plays by four women directors.
The first short play begins in the foyer and leads to a stunning interplay of karanga between Alexandria Tuhura and Bea Joblin (the director) which evolves into an enactment of the Māori origin story where the earth mother, Papatūānuku (Tuhura), gives her son Tane (Isaac Cleland) the clay to create the first mortal woman Hineahuone (Fran Olds).
Lashings of mud, gloomy light (lighting designed by Tony Black) and an interesting use of fabric, from the stretched sail backdrops and AV projections to the sensuous folds of drapery and robe, make for an erotic, chthonic,* elemental atmosphere. Set and projection design is credited to Esther Riddell, with costumes and props by Seraphina Tausilia.
From the creation sequence, the second play (directed by Lily della Porta) emerges as a natural segue. As if the world is still new, the trio of childlike creatures – Amy Griffin-Brown, Lewis McLeod, Drew Brown – seem to be discovering themselves and learning about body parts in a state of playful innocence. The adorable trio provide a nice counterpoint to the developments in the following plays, where complex issues such as gender stereotypes, objectification and sexual consent are confronted.
The third play (director Jody Burrell) asks important social questions, but in one passage the musical accompaniment competes with the monologue to the point that it’s hard to follow. There is a tantalising scene in which a young man (Donald James) expresses an affinity with women (Hannah Kelly, Rosie Cann, Kelly Moen) and women’s rights movements, only to find he risks ostracism by his male friends until he resorts to misogynistic bonding with the rest of them.
The observation is spot on, but, at least in execution, clunky and simplistic – there is so much more to be explored in there. There are a lot of ideas packed into this short play. The time restriction must in part be responsible for the sense that this huge question feels like it is glanced over tokenistically.
The fourth play (director Sabrina Martin, with Genevieve Krefft, Mesha Kipa and Rachel Baker)) invites the audience in, illustrating ideas of collective responsibility for the state of gender relations, addressing the cacophony of social demands around identity. A final, powerful sequence illustrates principles around consent.
Overall impressions: I love the donning and doffing of the man’s jacket to play with assumptions around gendered power and entitlement. The casually gratuitous confrontation of taboos and double standards, like the uncomfortable idea of women pissing in a public place: awkward and illuminating at the same time. I like the steady dissolution of the fourth wall until the audience is so involved in the action that responsibility for the dramatic result is shared.
Questions: sometimes I feel preached to. Naturally there is an agenda and “a stage of one’s own” implies that this set of productions is about women’s space. I am with them on their kaupapa pretty much all the way but my feeling is that in presenting a dialogue on gender, there could be a little more room for the incorrect, the converse; a little more texture and depth to the depiction of the relationship between ‘male bonding’ and misogyny, for example; a little more showing of male subjectivity, even for the purposes of counterpoint, so that the conversation feels more democratic rather than as if there is only one right answer, one correct feeling to have. In this nagging little respect, I feel an unstated peer pressure to arrive at a specific conclusion without a presentation of all the evidence, and without enough openness to the risky unknown.
The post-performance wananga with the cast is the opportunity for the audience to air such thoughts, to debate those concerns and see where it leads. This is a place where open debate is encouraged and I love that principle in a theatre context. I’m just warming to the convo when it’s time to move on toward home – but here I am the next morning, chucking in my two cents. After all, the Pat-a-Cake mission is one of ongoing conversation, experimentation, discovery, change, and it’s great.
*chthonic: relating to or inhabiting the underworld.
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