Warning: This review discusses the topic of sexual assualt.
Making their theatrical debut as a company Sailing With Styx presents Bad Feminist, a show that analyses one of the most challenging moral dilemmas an individual can face.
Audrey (Rhiannon Bryan) is told that her loving boyfriend of two years allegedly sexually assaulted someone during his leavers trip. Upon finding out this news we experience Groundhog Day, cycling through 20 different scenarios and next steps that Audrey could take. Some of these scenarios are light-hearted, silly and unprobeable. Other scenarios are recognisable and rooted in reality, from denial, to confrontation, to aggression.
Rhiannon Bryan is impressively on stage for the entire duration of the show, often carrying out solo scenes. She presents Audrey as a relatable and likeable character who is just as flawed as all of us, particularly when she scolds herself after saying or thinking something that’s ‘un-feminist’ within the heat of the moment.
Harrison Lorenz-Daniel as Benji, the boyfriend, scores high on charm factor and makes you want to believe his character didn’t do what he’s accused of. The monologues he makes defending his actions hit close to home and are uncomfortable to watch as they’re ones we’ve heard before.
As the bearer of bad news, Harper Nguyen plays Elle; the friend who breaks it to Audrey what Benji has been accused of. Within the more light-hearted scenarios Harper was undoubtedly the person getting the most laughs, from bursting dramatically through a door to swinging a baby in a basket over her shoulder.
Bad Feminist. Photography by Andrea Lim.
The show’s audio-visual elements, designed by Emmason Tucker, act as another character for the performers, particularly Rhiannon, to keep up with. Projection of a phone screen shows Audrey frantically searching Instagram for Benji’s accuser or watching a Tiktok video and reading tweets about the accusation. A great deal of effort has gone into making these visual assets not just from an editing and recording perspective but in building Instagram profiles that look real with hundreds of followers and posts.
There were times that the acting felt a little tentative but in other scenes you could see the performers delivering to their fullest. They each dealt very well with occasional tech issues and the distraction of later comers walking across their acting space.
By placing Audrey at the centre of this story, writers Holland Brooks and Abigale Russel explored a different perspective in this wider puzzle of sexual assault culture. By no decision or action of her own, Audrey is now unintentionally involved in this situation where she’s required to make a choice. Will she make the ‘right’ choice? Is there a right choice?
This writing duo use Schrödinger’s Cat as the perfect analogy for Audrey’s situation. She doesn’t know the truth, or what’s “in the box”, without making the choice to open/explore it. They make the point that the decision to do nothing is still a decision and one that isn’t without consequence.
Bad Feminist is a thought-provoking production that adds another perspective to consider in the discourse around sexual assault culture. The show is on at The Blue Room theatre from now until Feb 4 but you’ll be hard-pressed to find tickets as it’s a sold out season. If you’d like to learn more about the show you can read an interview with Bad Feminist’s director and co-writer Holland Brooks here.