BWW REVIEW: I'M WITH HER Is A Powerful And Inspiring Piece Of Verbatim Theatre That Shares The Stories Of 9 Incredible Women
Wednesday 13th November 2019, 7:30pm, Eternity Playhouse
In an age when some of the highest positions of power around the world are occupied by known misogynists, I'M WITH HER serves to remind Sydney audiences that women are capable of great things and that women and men cannot and should not stand idly by and let it continue. As Darlinghurst Theatre Company's first commissioned work, I'M WITH HER enlightens and inspires supporters of the #MeToo movement whilst hopefully educating those that are yet to fully understand the need for gender equality and the unacceptability of sexual harassment and assault.
Director and Lead Writer Victoria Midwinter Pitt draws on her documentary filmmaking background to present an engaging and informative work, written in conjunction with Michele Lee (Calm Down I: We Have A Policy), Arrielle Cottingham (Calm Down II: It's Just a Joke), Jordan Raskopoulos (I Can't Calm Down: The (Inner) Critic) and Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood (Calm Down III: You're Being Overly Dramatic). The stories of nine Australian women of different ages, ethnicities and experiences are shared by a cast of 5 comprising Gabrielle Chan, Shakira Clanton, Lynette Curran, Deborah Galanos and Emily Havea. Giving voice to Counter Terrorism Expert and Labour MP Dr. Anne Aly, Sex Workers Rights Activist and Sex Worker Julie Bates AO, Environmental Scientist Dr. Marion Blackwell, World Champion Surfer Pam Burridge, Australia's first female Prime Minister The Hon. Julia Gillard, Bartender and Anti-Sexual Harrassment Campaigner Nikki Keating, Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at University of Melbourne Professor Marcia Langton AM, Catholic Nun Sister Patricia Madigan and Champion Footballer Erin Philips, the stories of discrimination, harassment and assault are shared along with the more important message of how these women challenged and keep challenging the patriarchal society.
Presented on a bare stage with only 5 tall chairs and a broad white backdrop, the focus remains on the stories. The white walls form a surface for projections of facts, photographs and the occasional animation of waves or a barrage of the hateful messages posted online and in the media about the 'outspoken' women, particularly those that entered politics. The 5 performers also wear white but each reflects a personal touch with elements which range from shorts and singlet to button down blouses and dresses.
The 5 performers each bring their unique style to the work and are wonderfully suited to the stories they share. Emily Havea presents the youngest voices of the evening, infusing her own confidence and gutsiness into Nikki Keating and Erin Philips memories. Shakira Clanton has a beautiful easy storytelling style that reaches out to the audience and connects as she grabs and holds eye contact or flashes cheeky glances as Pam Burridge's words challenge the male dominated sporting world. Clanton is also a wonderful match for telling fellow indigenous woman Professor Marcia Langton's story of raising awareness of the femicide occurring in Australia's Aboriginal communities. Supported by the teleprompter screen at the front of the stage, Lynette Curran gives Julie Bates' story a quiet feistiness and Dr Marion Blackwell's memories a refined resilience of a country girl that refused to be hindered by a world where girls didn't study science. Gabrielle Chan also refers to the teleprompter to ensure that she honors Sister Patricia Madigan's words and gives the catholic nun's stories a fabulous playfulness with a bright open expression that hints to a wicked humor beneath the stereotypical image of a calm and serene bride of Christ. Late addition to the cast Deborah Galanos presents the Hon. Julia Gillard and Dr Anne Aly's stories with script in hand but in reality she rarely refers to the paper, delivering a powerful presentation of the two politicians with gravitas and ease of familiarity with the stories as if they were her own.I'M WITH HER is an incredibly powerful work. While some may think that it isn't new to hear stories of how women are discriminated against and assaulted, this work has much more than a glimpse into the years of disadvantage, double standards and danger that women have felt. It is empowering to hear stories from women who have challenged the system and are still challenging it. For women of all ages, particularly the younger generations, I'M WITH HER is inspiring but I'M WITH HER is not just for women, in fact, its probably even more important that men attend this show to help raise awareness of how they can help build a better world for the women around them, whether it be their wives, daughters, sisters, mothers or friends.
Photos: Robert Catto