BY JOANNA LI
MEDUSA opens this Friday at Wellington’s Circa Theatre, with promises to be a “new work of dissection and dissent on female bodies, female violence and female rage”. Because there’s never a bad time to talk about the beauty of a furious woman, I caught up with one of the creators of the show Julia Croft, to see what the show was, where it was coming from, and where it intended to go.
Julia called it a “collaboration of feminist theory and politics”. It’s part of a larger body of different projects, that has been on the boil for a couple of years now, and Julia first got interested into doing such a project when she met the co-creators of the show, Virginia Frankovich and Nisha Madhan. The continued research shared between three artists looks into the representation of gender and power through a feminist lens.
Why Medusa? Julia called her “a figure of the cultural zeitgeist happening today – you can look at her, but when she looks back you turn to stone.” MEDUSA‘s aim is to resonate with the contemporary view as an alternative to the traditional portrayal by men such as Freud, Shakespeare, and Caravaggio. “Often Medusa has been used to support the theories of men. Only in the last thirty years or so has there been a trend of women reclaiming her as a symbol of female anger, and in doing so, reclaiming and celebrating what it is to be monstrous.”
There’s an emphasis on changing the narrative – MEDUSA doesn’t ask what we’re looking at, it asks who is looking in the first place. “It’s a cesspit of feminism,” Julia laughed. She hopes that people will take away the realisation that angry women can be beautiful, and that anger itself can be both transformative and transgressive. “Usually, a show with anger has no laughter, but that’s not the case here. We’ve tried to create a gig-like atmosphere – like rock music fuelled by rage and sexuality with super high levels of energy.”
We also discussed the long history of women’s anger being marginalised and repressed. “Traditionally, women have been told to stay quiet – we wanted to explore the beauty in female rage. It’s deeply exhilarating.” MEDUSA walks through issues such as not being allowed to feel what you feel, or being called too ‘intense’, or how women’s anger has often been labelled as hysteria, in comparison to ‘righteous’ men’s anger. Julia commented on the loaded nature of the word ‘hysteria’, and it’s long-held association with heightened emotions that are seen as negative in women. She emphasised how MEDUSA aimed to “skip the part where we point out the problem because people are aware of the cultural baggage already”. “We wanted to go straight into the gleeful indulgence of anger in performatively celebrating things that we have been taught are negative, weak, or wrong.”
Despite this, Julia says that it’s not a confronting show. “We weren’t looking to make an interrogation. [The show] is physical, it challenges the form of theatre, but we’re looking into creating a catharsis.”
Julia also acknowledges that dealing with issues of shame and anger can be an exceedingly personal journey. “We’re not trying to speak for everybody. We’re just trying to create a relationship with people on the stage.” All three co-creators express themselves in a way that feels genuine to them. “We weren’t looking to just be three clones of one another. That’s the beauty of working collaboration: it’s an ever-evolving show.” Julia laughed that “what I can see in my brain is never as good as it is after a good chat with other people. [Virginia, Nisha, and I] just spark off each other.”
“The show has a soul of its own. I’m constantly surprised by what emerges from working organically and playfully.” Julia emphasised that it was important to not be worried when things didn’t go to plan. “The essential thing is to go with the flow.”
MEDUSA is showing at:
Circa Theatre, Wellington as part of WTF! 2018 and New Zealand Theatre Month, Friday Sept 21 – Saturday October 6
Show times: Tuesday – Saturday, 7.30pm / Sunday, 4.30pm
Buy Wellington tickets here.
Loft, Q Theatre, Auckland as part of the MATCHBOX 2018 season
Thursday October 25 – Saturday November 3
Buy Auckland tickets here.
JOANNA LI is a queer woman of colour and first generation Chinese New Zealander studying Law at Victoria University of Wellington. Loves her friends and tearing down the white heterosexist capitalist patriarchy. Her musings can be found here.
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