Satisfyingly dark and disturbing
By Caitlin McGrane
Bachelorette by Leslye Headland is a razor-sharp tragi-comedy that exemplifies what I have been saying for years – we need more unlikeable female characters on stage and screen. The 2012 film of the same name is a classic in my house, although its final act never quite seemed able to live up to the saltiness promised in the set up. This latest version from Twelve Angry more than fulfils those promises.
Twelve Angry is a Melbourne-based independent theatre company with the specific aim of championing the creative voices of women. In this production, director Matilda Dixon-Smith has created something so dark and twisted, yet utterly brilliant, in its illumination of how society treats women. Bachelorette is fucked up – none of the characters are likeable and, unlike the film version, they are irredeemable in this stage show; I promise this is a good thing.
The play opens as Gena (Rebekah Robertson) and Katie (Lucie Gavanon) enter a hotel room heavily stockpiled with booze and cocaine. They mope about, complain about their lives and discuss the upcoming nuptials of their “friend” Becky (Sara Tabitha Catchpole). The repeated references to Becky’s weight (she is almost exclusively referred to as ‘Pigface’) demonstrates how women are often valued only in relation to their fuckability – none of her high school friends can believe she is the first one to get married. Gena and Katie are kind of fine as characters, but I felt the show only really got interesting when Regan (Holly Brindley) showed up. Regan amps up the chaos and brings back the repugnant Jeff (Joshua Monaghan) and the pitiful Joe (Conor Misson).
Carnage reigns supreme in Headland’s script, and set designer Gabby Lewis (supported in the construction by Nick Sanders, Eva Stacey and Hanna O’Keeffe) has cleverly mirrored the depravity in the play in the set as the place actually starts to fall apart. Costume designer Hannah Crone and wardrobe assistant Bec Hill’s carefully chosen outfits fit the characters well. Lighting design (Siobhain Geaney) and sound design (Jess Keeffe) was fine, but could probably do with some more subtlety to help enhance the performance. There was a notable and awkward lack of sound in the opening scene, which might easily be rectified.
It’s always a delight to see productions that support women in creative fields (in fact it’s ways good to see women supported in any field), but Bachelorette does something unusual in showing how nastiness and aggression aren’t the exclusive preserve of men, and unlikeable female characters reinforce the idea that women don’t need to be likeable – we’re not here to help you deal with your feelings and/or guilt. Katie, Regan, Gena and Becky are unashamed of their shortcomings, drug and alcohol abuse and disordered eating, but rather than glorify these traits, the play shows how truly tragic it is that we expect women to shut up and deal with this stuff – our problems aren’t any easier just because they’re unseen. In fact that might be the most tragic thing of all.
Twelve Angry presents BACHELORETTE
6-11 December 8.00 PM \ The Stables, Meat Market, North Melbourne