We Get It
Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre
June 15 – 25 2016
Reviewed by Katelyn Panagiris
After a critically acclaimed season at MTC’s NEON Festival, Elbow Room brings We Get It to Brisbane Powerhouse. In this fierce and witty new work, five classic heroines (and the actors playing them) take to the stage in a battle to win it all and to answer the question: can we imagine a world without sexism?
The performance begins with the men in the audience literally centre stage. The lights come up, the screen is lit and a booming voice helps us to imagine this world where sexism no longer exists – where women are granted the same rights, pay and opportunities as men. Understandably, the men on stage begin to look uncomfortable. In these opening moments we glimpse the bigger picture of this important work; we may “get” sexism, but there is still a long way to go before achieving gender equality.
From here we enter a glitzy glamorous game show complete with five contestants dancing ridiculously in hot pink lycra. It’s a familiar scene, but there’s something disturbing behind the laughter and the fun. As each of the five women are forced to order themselves according to their appearance, personal lives and categories that simply have nothing to do with the competition at hand, a system of institutionalized sexism (and racism) reveals itself.
The “message” of the work permeates through the actors’ video diary entries where they recount their experiences as women in an industry dominated by men. It is unclear whether these are the lived experiences of the actors, and in this way the line between the actor, the actor playing an actor, and the actor playing an actor playing a character (and it really does feel that convoluted) is blurred time and time again. In particular the line between reality and fiction is manipulated as the actors talk back to the host, argue their concerns and work to perfect their performance as one of the greatest heroines ever written. These powerful and magnetic moments bring to the fore the problematic portrayal of women through characters written by men hundreds of years ago. Progressively through the performance we see the actors fight back against the ridiculous expectations of the host and us, the audience.
It is clear that there is plenty of ground for We Get It to cover, but at times scenes feel too long and blatant declaration of the issue at hand becomes too much to handle. Personally I found the work difficult to connect with – while I empathised with the actors / characters, I struggled to play my own role as the alienated audience member. I wanted more space to come to my own conclusions, rather than being told what it all meant and who was at fault. In addition, I found the work to be exclusive in its use of in-jokes and terminology that only an industry audience would fully appreciate. As a work dealing with an issue relevant and important to all, I believe the work could be more accessible to a general audience that do not work within the Brisbane theatre industry.