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Festival review: In the Club

Adelaide Festival

A powerful and unsettling feeling of impending doom pervades the set of this new State Theatre Company play about three young women partying with AFL footballers, writes Heather Taylor Johnson.

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Three women, a night out, three footballers – what could go wrong?

First we worry about Annie (played by Miranda Daughtry), who idolises footballers, having grown up on the sport. On top of that, she’s “used goods” as far as the team’s concerned; has been since she was 16 and slept with a rookie.

Then we worry about Olivia (Rachel Burke), who doesn’t know a thing about football, and we worry mostly because she tells us that she’d like to have “simple, loving, sweet sex”.

And we have to worry about Ruby (Anna Steen), because she really puts it out there, always writhing on stage, clearly on the prowl.

We worry about all three of the women because, well, they’re women, but we also worry because the play is called In the Club and it’s about rape culture in the AFL, so I ask you again: what could go wrong? Right.

What’s interesting about Patricia Cornelius’s script for this State Theatre Company production is that so much of the play is spent exploring active gender roles in a very natural, non-threatening way; it is almost enough to cause the audience to lose interest at times. But there’s always that undertone of something’s-going-to-happen because something’s got to happen, but to which of the women? To all the women?

I think it’s this deliberate delayed crisis that makes the “something”, when it happens, truly shocking.

As Cornelius, who was commissioned to write the work for the State Theatre Company Ensemble, asks: “But how to find a way into this world and not be predictable or state the obvious?”

Her approach works.

In the Club cast members Rachel Burke, Miranda Daughtry and Anna Steen. Photo: Sia Duff

The feeling of doom is mirrored in the set, where everything is black save for the white lights on the backdrop of mist, as if there’s an unrelenting rain on a perfectly clear night (something’s plainly out of place), and the stage floor is flooded so that the actors have to walk through water, working on the fear that if it keeps raining, someone might drown. It’s a powerful motif, fairly unsettling.

But just as in this moment in history where women are coming forward with horrific stories of sexual abuse, where once they were victims and now they’re taking control, so too do the women in In the Club.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll want to smile as you applaud at the end of the show, mind you – it’s much more complicated than that – but I wouldn’t be surprised if you leave the theatre with a hankering for a footy game. A Women’s League football game.

The State Theatre Company of SA is presenting In the Club, directed by Geordie Brookman, at the Odeon Theatre in Norwood until March 18 as part of the Adelaide Festival program. It is recommended for a mature audience, aged 16+.

See more InDaily Adelaide Festival stories and reviews here.

 

 

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