Melbourne Fringe: Strong Female Character

Rowena Hutson has two dog tags; one that says feminist and one that says scoundrel. Strong Female Character looks at the action heroes that shaped Hutson’s character but, fair warning, the show goes from deconstructing pop culture to much darker places.

Strong Female Character. Melbourne Fringe

Not that looking at popular culture isn’t enough to fill us with despair. Hutson tells us all the great lessons she learned from John McClane, Indiana Jones, Han Solo, Marty McFly, Peter Venkman, and Bill and Ted. And then she looks at how those great wisecrackers treat the women in their films and, well, illusions are shattered. You can hear the cheering crowd go deathly silent as they brace themselves for the cold truth about their heroes.

If the show was just this, it would be a good show. Hutson throws herself into recreating all five Die Hard movies in five minutes and you love her energy and her own wisecracks about Bruce Willis’s receding hairline. And we understand that you can love a thing that is problematic. As a tomboy, Hutson grew up wanting to be these action heroes – and then puberty hit. And everything gets so much more complicated.

Hutson’s personal story turns the focus of Strong Female Character from dissecting her favourite scoundrels to dissecting herself. The shift is almost jarring, but you can see why she takes that turn. Puberty is a hell of a time, but when you’re a girl who is a tomboy and identifies with boys more than girls, it seems even more confusing.

Strong Female Character is an hilarious look at pop culture icons and where Hollywood has failed to give us female characters that are loveable rogues in the same mould. It is also a personal story of Hutson’s own growing up. And there is a moment in the show that I think is problematic, but I don’t want that to take away from what an achievement this powerful show is.

Because if nothing else, this show tells us it’s okay to love things, even when they are flawed. Just ask the scoundrels.

Keith Gow

Keith Gow is an internationally-produced playwright, best known for Who Are You Supposed to Be (Edinburgh Fringe 2013, Melbourne Fringe 2014, Adelaide Fringe 2015). He is also co-writer of the upcoming supernatural drama series Sonnigsburg which will air on Channel 31. He blogs about his writing, film and theatre at

Keith Gow

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