Perfectly balanced between provocation and parody, We Get It! (Rachel Perk, Marcel Dorney) burst onto the stage at the Brisbane Powerhouse last week with a brash and pointed reminder about the experiences of women in theatre. This powerful show is a satirical take-down of a culture that still objectifies and demeans its female counterparts in ways that other industries just couldn’t get away with now.
After a quick quip about who is in control tonight, we become the audience of a seeming reality TV Talent quest that pits five aspiring actresses against each other to play some of histories greatest, male imagined, heroines – but of course, a plain audition for the role just won’t cut it. Our host is the hard-arsed, ratings-driven, power-suited Emily (Tomlins) who shows no mercy when dealing with her fellow-gendered but status-lacking competitors. But beneath that glitzy exterior Tomlins may have the hardest tale to tell after all.
A stereotypically feminine competition would be incomplete without a good-old-fashion ranking so the contestants, resplendent in pageant sashes that name unspoken truths – “token”, “funny bitch” and so on – are asked to arrange themselves in order of a number of highly inappropriate and irrelevant stereotypes: “Most likely to be a threat to other women”, “Most likely to hang themselves” etc. The latter, after a resigned moment of shock, is accepted as the inevitable role of one of the actresses. The co-host (computer Dem 9000), rates the audiences response through the BOSS (Bums On Seat System) – yes, “We Get It!”
There can only be one winner and at the end of the game-show the opportunity to play a female heroine is on the proviso that they are played by instruction from their male director (Dorney) who naturally is the expert on women and their motives. There is only one thing they need to understand and that is that a powerful woman, is really just a monster.
The writing is superb, bringing some unique voices to the classic roles; Amy Ingram’s Medea is riot-girl gold, Lady Macbeth as Kasia Kaczmarek forced to eat watermelon in lingerie before breaking out ‘unsex me’ delivered in the Polish language and Maurial Spearim’s Antigone, in her defiant speech to Creon, an Aboriginal Actress orating on her moral right to honour her dead. In a moment that blurs the boundaries between the actress and character, she offers respect to the director’s ancient culture myths. This momentary poignancy wins the unfortunate competition of the subjugated gathering.
Elbow Room’s M.O. is all about big questions in small spaces, so what exactly do they mean by ‘We Get It’? – We women get subhuman treatment at every turn? We get it so why don’t you? Or, Yeah Yeah we get it and please shut up now. Thankfully there are heroines and heroes like the Elbow Room team who just won’t shut up while there is still something for us to get. See it at the Brisbane Powerhouse until June 25.