NZ Fringe Festival 2023

Production Details

Playwright: Laura Jackson
Director: Bethany Caputo

Powersuit Productions

Direct from New York City, see this breakout Australian production’s New Zealand Premiere.

What do you call it when a woman threads her keys through her fingers on the walk to her car?
What do you call it when a man is catfished because of his sexual orientation?
What do you call it when he breaks her property, isolates her, and gives her a black eye?

We call it ‘The Culture’.

Katie and Will are best friends, podcast hosts, woke and VERY single. The search for love in the modern world can be dangerous for a gay man and a woman. Is their friendship enough to keep them safe?

Set in Sydney Australia, The Culture is Powersuit Productions’ debut work, examining a pervasive sexual culture which is giving rise to an epidemic of family violence. In Australia one woman is killed each week at the hands of a partner, and intimate partner violence is the number one non-disease related cause of death or disability of women ages 15-44.

A one-act dramedy, The Culture tackles heavy issues with a light touch, using the warmth and intimate banter between two best friends. Audiences are welcomed into Will and Katie’s living room and into an important wider conversation.

We are proud to be supporting local domestic violence charities in each city that we visit. Details to follow.

We’d love to chat to you in the foyer after the show!

Wellington Venue:
FatG at Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington
28th February – 4th March 2023
Prices: From $25

Keep up to date with us on Instagram @powersuitprod 

Content forecast: 16+, Medium Coarse Language, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assult, Depictions of Violence, Misogyny, Homophic Language

The Culture Cast: Laura Jackson & Mina Asfour

Dramaturg: Catherine Fargher
Lighting Designer: Capri Harris
Sound Designer: Charlotte Leamon
Stage Manager: Natalie Low
Graphic Designer: Brandon Wong

Theatre ,

Zeros in on an abiding issue that constantly needs to be called out

Review by John Smythe 02nd Mar 2023

The publicity for this Australian production – written by Laura Jackson, directed by Bethany Caputo, produced by Carly Fisher – leads with this:

“What do you call it when a woman threads her keys through her fingers on the walk to her car?
“What do you call it when a man is catfished because of his sexual orientation?
“What do you call it when he breaks her property, isolates her, and gives her a black eye?

“We call it ‘The Culture’.”

As we take our seats at The Gryphon, Australian TV clips amplifying toxic masculine culture are playing on a monitor. We are all set for a dramatic take down of the culture that has plagued us forever on both sides of the Tasman.

It’s a surprise, then, when we find ourselves feeling like a live TV audience watching what looks and feels like a couple of episodes of a half hour sitcom featuring a straight woman and her gay male flatmate who have been BFFs since high school: “You and me against the world, baby!”.

Sure they pick up the theme by impersonating high profile people from Julia Gillard to Alan Jones, for the other to guess. It’s a fun game and it’s clear they are woke (I’m not using that word pejoratively – it’s a socio-political orientation I align with).  

Katie (Laura Jackson) works in advertising and practices a pitch to Will (Mina Asfour) – for what I’m unsure because she’s given to talking very fast and running words together, and when passages are also fuelled with hype, OMG energy or excitement, key words get lost. Anyway, Will thinks the pitch is really good idea but asks if it’s too angry. Is this a red flag?

The domestic scenes are intercut with the couple’s live podcast posts on their ‘Don’t Even Get Me Started’ YouTube feed. Yes, they’re influencers sharing their experiences to a loyal fanbase. There’s a bit of jostling over who gets to tell their story first and Will’s one about a man in a bar gets to precede Katie’s about a work do where a “giant dude” mate of her boss, Dave, turns up. And something brushes her arse.

It turns out “giant dude” has joined the advertising firm and is all too cosy with Dave, who has rejected Katie’s pitch. But as the glimpses of toxic masculinity keep surfacing, there are things about this couple that start to niggle, like Katie’s dominance over Will (later he says she “wears the pants”), their ridiculing of “giant dude’s” name – Kale Brown (is that his fault?), Will’s criticism of Katie’s wardrobe (although it is mostly pink with a touch of mauve). But hey, puritanical judgementalism is toxic in itself, right? We’re all human. Relax.

There’s the obligatory sortie into dating apps – Tinder, Grinder, et al – and a related game with fruit that they play on their podcast. And when Katie talks Will into coming to their Halloween work do, he dresses as Voldemort and she as a giant vulva. Some of us may wonder what’s scary about that while others know it will freak men out.

It turns out our inner questioning of what we behold is a key part of the production.

The turning point comes when Katie gets off with guess who, with clear carnal intentions – and does not come home until late-afternoon the next day. And her phone goes straight to message. What’s a BFF since high school to do? Well, their next podcast solo, for one thing – a rant about his dislike of the bar scene.

Whether or not you’ve seen it coming or empathise with Katie’s choice – isn’t that what liberation is all about? – she does not deserve the fate that befalls her. No-one does, ever. Initially our fears for her are offset by Will’s reaction to being abandoned, not to mention her rejection of his desire to protect her. Then what are we to make of it when Katie starts posting domestic goddess type podcasts, and getting lots of approval from fans?

The quest for free will as a minefield is laid out here for us to navigate in empathy with both Katie and Will – until the evidence becomes incontrovertible. Then comes the question of what to do about it, confronting each of us with a ‘what would you do?’ moment. As Katie does, we get to check our own complacent beliefs that we’re woke.

Although, at 80 minutes, it could lose 10 minutes from the first 50, The Culture does zero in on an abiding issue that constantly needs to be called out. And rather than preaching to the converted, this play makes us turn the lens on ourselves to excellent effect.


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