“Pain and Embarrassment For Everyone Concerned”

07/09/2009 at 3:51 pm 3 comments

This Kind Of Ruckus

Version 1.0, Bay 20 – Carriageworks, September 2009

presented by Performance Space

If there’s one issue that Australian culture seems locked in struggle with, it’s sexual politics.  It’s been a bumper year for scandal – although every year seems to herald some new shocking act of sexual violence unto our headlines, 2009 in particular seems to be the year for NRL shame.

I’ve lost count, not that I particularly gravitate toward the multitude of voices opining about Matthew John’s private life, or Brett Stewart’s alleged drunken grope or whatever it was that happened the time before that.  And that’s just it, there are so many different opinions on the subject that one might be forgiven for thinking that as a society we talk about sexual violence.

We don’t.  That is, of course, until it happens very publicly, and even then ‘discussion’ takes the form of drowning, howling outrage. Remember Helen Garner and “The First Stone”?  I reckon we’re so uptight about the issue it’s near impossible to conduct a conversation across the gender divide without causing some kind of anxiety or another.  So instead the culture we live in has become one of platitudes, saying the right thing and secretly thinking another.

Simply put: Male sexuality is taboo.

But that’s kind of the point of this confrontational piece taking a bite out of  the facade of PC liberalism and creating a public conversation through theatre: physical, verbal and expressive – about issues of sexual politics and control between men and women in Australia.

Let us get one thing perfectly clear. Sexual violence against women is abhorrent, and anyone who likes it is a sociopath.  There’s a clear mark in the sand on that front, and if you cross that line, well – don’t expect too much sympathy. Unless of course you’re a well known sports personality.

But the actors in This Kind Of Ruckus don’t dwell too much on this simple contradiction.  While they do create a space acknowledging what’s beyond acceptable – they’re more interested in exploring blurry areas leading right up to the line of violence, the subtleties of control and manipulation that escape everyday examination.  The passive aggressive behaviour within relationships.  How tone of voice or ‘innocent’ questions can somehow be just as damaging. How playing the victim can be a form of control in itself.

It’s dangerous territory, and not unfamiliar in Australian theatre for those who have seen The Removalists or The Boys or Blackrock. But this is non-narrative, so the audience doen’t have the luxury of being once removed from the action.  By mixing up ‘real’ conversations about sexual violence with the audience into the abstract video projection and dance we’re tossed around, confronted with ourselves.  At one point early on, an actor seemed to single me out as she picked out the twelve guys in the audience she would choose to fuck consecutively.

I felt squeamish, reduced to an object.  Then I realised that men do this all the time.  I do it – not overtly – but I do it all the same.  I think everyone does it.  Does that make it ok?  Do we feel embarrassed to be that way because it is supposed to be private? As the play develops we’re left slipping from the grasp of simple rights and wrongs and we must reassess these things about ourselves.

Importantly the team behind this work have acknowledged that men are creatures of passion and fear just as much as women. The staging takes a cyclic format, which both represents (presumably) the cycle of violence but allows you to revisit thoughts you may have had early on in a different context.  The repeating, simple image of a man approaching a woman on a nightclub dancefloor resonates as we’re probed to make judgement on something totally normal in the context of something totally horrific.

To say I ‘enjoyed’ the show is not quite right, as it’s pretty full-on, confrontational and disturbing.  Admittedly it has a couple of laughs but the overall experience is not unlike being interrogated.  But the questions, difficult as they may be – are ones that need to be asked of our society if we are to move forward from seemingly endless headlines of yet another horrific crime against women.

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Entry filed under: Inside Theatre REVIEWS, Sydney THEATRE. Tags: , , , , , , .

It Shouldn’t Make Sense (but it does) Anyone But Soderbergh Might Make This Work

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jana  |  14/10/2009 at 5:43 pm

    I have been enjoying your writing a great deal, 5th Wall. But have you got a name, or an email?

    Reply
    • 2. anvildrops  |  14/10/2009 at 8:08 pm

      Hi Jana – I prefer anonymity as I have been burned by critics in the past (in that one might question their work-ethic, and have them suddenly not turn up to one’s show), and would prefer not to expose people I work with to the wrath of those with fragile egos and long memories. Theatre is a very small universe in this country, one i would like to keep working in!

      However my friends call me Sancz. Feel free! I will send you an email shortly.
      thanks for reading,
      SZ

      Reply
  • […] of male energy are being explored and expressed through theatrical forms in a safe way. Witness This Kind Of Ruckus performed last year from Version 1.0. Altogether a different beast to Bromance – I would […]

    Reply

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VICTOR SANCZ vassanc [AT] gmail.com

since 2009

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