Directed by Natarsha Wrensted
542 King Street, Newtown
Season: 22 - 26 September
I relish any engagement with gender issues in our society, and particularly rejoice when I see theatre-makers step up to the mark, as the theatre embodies an ideal forum for social change. In this endeavour, I would identify the breakdown of gender stereotypes and rigid roles imposed by society as a key aim. In pursuing this, it can be so easy to slip into superficial analysis and rather perpetuate the very tropes we set out to destroy. I fear that Patricia Cornelius’ writing in Slut, under admirable intentions, takes this misstep, unsettling the audience – and not necessarily for the right reasons.
The play is entitled ‘Slut’, a description of the protagonist as what I assume was intended as a provocative hint at the critique of ‘slut-shaming’ culture to follow in the production. The work aims to be self-condemning in the presentation of displeasing attitudes, which culminates in the downfall of an innocent woman, as well as a ‘good man’ implicated in the proceedings. Unfortunately the key characters’ actions are reduced to hearsay as they are recounted in gossip, and the main subjects of the work diminished virtually to objects of scandal. I feel this is due to Cornelius’ writing style which opted to tell the audience exactly what apparently occurred rather than show them, which could have incorporated more subtlety and complexity of emotion. The story’s didacticism is simplistic, and oversimplifying such important and relevant issues can be damaging.
In spite of having to work within the bounds of Cornelius’ writing, the creative team for this play ultimately produced a theatrical piece with artistic competence. Featuring a strong cast, an authentic depiction of high school scenes is achieved, creating a powerful resonance with the audience. Multiple cast members find potential for comedy in their succinct dialogue, showcasing an ability to develop a character independent from what is afforded in the script. Tight ensemble work is employed resulting in a slick finish.
Slut is an example of how, even with the best intentions, we must remain analytical and discerning in determining the story we set out to tell, and how best to share this with audiences. As simple a notion as it seems, Slut was by no means lacking in theatrical dexterity, yet didn’t resonate as a truthful and incisive story for audiences. A dialogue between artists and their audience is crucial to create real social impact, and Slut succeeds in instigating this dialogue – I’m sure the audience wouldn’t leave the theatre without an opinion to share.