In The Club by Patricia Cornelius.
Directed by Geordie Brookman.Associate director Suzannah Kennet Lister. Set and Lighting Design Geoff Cobham and Chris Petridis. Composer Gazelle Twin. Sound Designer Andrew Howard. State Theatre of South Australia. Odeon Theatre. Adelaide Festival. Febuary 28 – March 18 2018
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
|Rachel Burke as Olivia in In The Club. Photo: james Hartley|
The quotes leap from the pages of the programme. More than merely sexist, they are vile, bullying and viciously cruel. Eddie Maguire derides and denigrates Caroline Wilson. Alan Jones suggests hurling Julia Gillard into the sea in a chaff bag and Quentin Tarantino bandies semantics to deny use of the term rape to describe sex with a thirteen year old girl. It is the culture of male sexual power, the invidious exploitation of women for the sexual gratification of the male.
In her play, commissioned by the State Theatre of South Australia for its Adelaide Festival production, playwright Patricia Cornelius explores the sexual misconduct, recently exposed in the media. In an attempt to avoid the clichés and predictable scenarios, Cornelius examines the cultre of sexual exploitation from the perspective of three females. Impressionable and naïve Annie (Miranda Daughtrey) became embroiled in the testosteronic world of male sexuality at the age of sixteen and had sex with footballer Sean (Dale March). Olivia looked for love with Angus (Rashidi Edward) only to be exploited and humiliated by his football mates. Even Ruby (Anna Steen),wild and independent and out for a good time learns that she too is ultimately powerless under the influence of James (Nathan O’Keefe). Sean and James epitomize the macho, narcissistic, arrogant nature of the sporting hero. Angus, though more sensitive, is compelled to conform to the powerful influence of the club and his teammates.
There is no victory for the victim. “We are invincible” Sean screams in Annie’s face when she sends photos to the internet, media, family and the club. The women may eventually wreak a shallow revenge upon their abusers, but it is at the price of their own self esteem and Cornelius’s play provides no comfort for those seeking a resolution. Cornelius aims to avoid the predictable but the cliché persists. The struggle continues, and even though her characters come to a realization of the consequence of their actions, there is little hope that the culture will change
As a result, I found the play unsatisfying. This is not the fault of the actors. They work hard under Geordie Brookman’s direction. Nor is it the fault of the production team and Geoff Cobham and Chris Petridis waterscape design with a challenging flooded stage for actors to traverse. Gazelle Twin’s composition struck the right note. Rather the fault may lie with the structure of the play, a series of monologues, interspersed with brief interchanges between the characters. In The Club is community theatre, driven more by the issue than the drama. Perhaps I was not meant to feel empathy for the characters, but simply, in a Brechtian sense, sit in judgement of the words and actions of the characters.
As community theatre, In The Club has the potential to encourage debate, raise issues and discuss possible solutions in an open forum and play an important role in giving a voice to women, who, in the main remain at the mercy of the club culture.
As an Adelaide Festival showcase work, In The Club is not entirely up to the mark.