MADWOMEN MONOLOGUES - Theatre Review

 WHAT: Madwomen Monologues (2022)

WHEN: 7 - 12 November 2022

WHERE: The Butterfly Club - Upstairs

WRITTEN BY:  Claire Bowen, Bridgette Burton, Cerise de Gelder, Dana Leslie Goldstein, Dana Hall, Louise Hopewell, Alison Knight, Sharmini Kumar, Katrina Mathers, Jessica Rijs, Kate Rotherham, and Seon Williams

DIRECTED BY: Nadia Andary, Chris Boek, Natasha Boyd, Lore Burns, Emma Drysdale, Gemma Flannery, Bruce Langdon, Lucy Norton, Adele Shelley, Patrick Slee, Carl Whiteside, and Seon Williams

PERFORMED BY: Nadia Andary, Carolyn Dawes, Gemma Flannery, Isabella Gilbert, Benji Groenewegen, El Kiley, Bridgette Kucher, Melanie Madrigali, Katrina Mathers, Tenielle Thompson, and Seon Williams

Melanie Madrigali - Photo courtesy of Baggage Productions

It has been 12 years since Baggage Productions birthed the Madwomen Monologues and despite all that has happened in that time (and hasn't there been a lot!) the concept and outcomes are still top notch. This year the Madwomen Monologues are back on the stage at The Butterfly Club running across 2 programs. This means you can split them up to accommodate life or just take one big gulp and see both programs in one night with fun cocktails in between (my recommendation).

The main rule for the Madwomen Monologues is that they must be written by women. This doesn't make it an exclusive space as men can direct or perform, but there is a feel of safety and the sacred because, as with all good writing, those women writers are writing what they know - which is what it is to be a woman IRL. It may surprise people to hear there is not a push-up bra, corset, or fishnet stocking in sight. What is in abundance is a bevy of strong, resilient, authentic womanhood - both in the stories told and the story telling.

There are 12 monologues in total spread over 2 programs of just under an hour. Beyond that, I would hesitate to guess at any curatorial impost over the programs. I had this idea that I would pick a best written, best acted, best directed from each program for this review but the truth is that the quality of all of it is so high it is impossible to make those judgements. 

What this means is that both programs are quality theatre making. What is perhaps of more interest to me is that the Madwomen Monologues follow on from a feeling I got during the Melbourne Fringe Festival this year. My sense is that the lockdowns have had a great impact on the theatre scene in Melbourne and there is a strong regard to theatre being anchored in telling stories - important stories, good stories, entertaining stories. Our digital lockdown lives seems to have reminded us that communication and sharing is what we need to sustain us. That is what is important. Not all the other nonsense and frou frou.

I am not splitting each program into separate commentary because it would serve no purpose. The 2 programs really only exist to make the work as a whole into consumable, bite size portions. Across both programs is a wonderful array of heart breaking, poignant, and hilarious content.

Amidst tales of cancer, depression, and agoraphobia you will also find stories about first kisses, the worshipping of coffee, and cakes. You will enjoy the biggest belly laughs of the year and then shed tears of sorrow and frustration. What you won't do is feel objectified or disregarded or silenced.

I said I wouldn't pick out favourites, but I do want to pick out a Most Valuable Player. It was a tough field but Seon Williams wins the award for absolute excellence in writing ('Feel It'), directing ('Dark Matter Speaks'), and performing ('Poets Don't Know How To Give Head').

Melbourne Fringe is over and we are not quite into the crazy Xmas musicals time of year. Take this opportunity to see some real treasures shine, and some important stories being told. Oh, and keep your ears open for 'Anzia, A Fiction' (written by Dana Leslie Goldstein). It has some important resonances for the times in which we live.

4 stars

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