Monash Uni Student Theatre’s latest production, Of War and Women, is a raw, confronting and sometimes-farcical representation of the extremes and crossovers of gender roles during wartime.
A series of vignettes alternating between violence, poignancy and comedy, Of War and Women explores potent issues including psychosexual disorders, domestic expectations and morality compromises.
We encounter such characters as Cassandra (Anna Burnley), a stoic teenage girl discovering her sexuality through sadomasochism; her not-so-blissfully wedded neighbours (Isabelle Ileris and Kevin Turner), suffering the inertia of stagnant marriage; Cassandra’s controlling though oblivious mother (Emily Keene); a series of sexually frustrated and variously abusive and/or abused soldiers (Nathan Burnmeister, Haydyn Jones and Sam Nix), and their tormented, debatably fantasised, female counterpart (Tara Dowler).
Through this odd and challenging line-up the audience is taken on a provocative journey into the hidden desires of a hopeless, possessive society.
Tailored from the Greek tragedy Women of Troy (Euripides), Of War and Women is a new work written by Genevieve Atkins. Atkins has also taken on the role of co-director, alongside Sharna Cousland. The two have produced a visually and structurally intriguing piece of theatre. The set consists of a colourful ’40s style kitchen, figuratively transformed throughout to suit more abstract locations. A winning feature is an old fridge, popular with the audience for its unacknowledged use as a stage entrance. The costumes are pleasing enough for accreditation, but unobtrusive enough that they do not distract from the script.
Of War and Women features strong use of symbolism and elements of absurdist theatre as a means of delivering its own thematic seriousness without offence, and does so effectively. For all its non-naturalistic appearance, it is a strikingly earnest production.
The eight-person cast is strong overall and while each performance has its admirable qualities, special mentions go to Dowler for her unwavering dignity and focus, and to Nix for maintaining his brutish masculinity even when wailing like a petulant child.
Of War and Women is showing until September 28th, at 7:30pm (except Sunday and Monday) in The MUST Space at Clayton campus.
Bookings can be made online through trymaster.com or at the MSA desk, level one of the Campus Centre
Tickets: $11 MSA cardholders / $13 Concession / $17 Full
Trigger warning: this play contains material that some people may find upsetting or disturbing.