It has taken me longer than I’d like to write this review. Every time I sat down to write it, I found myself struggling to find the right approach. It’s difficult, given the content of this production, to give an official sort of overview, a narrator-less commentary on its success as art. I found it impossible to remove my subjective self from a discussion of a play that is designed to start discussions about plays and representations of women. So here I am, writing in the first person, holding my experiences alongside those of the friends I went with and the actors on stage, in possibly the most biased review I’ve ever written. I just kind of wish I’d written it earlier, because if you care about what women have to say and you care about theatre, The Roar is well worth seeing.
As Rebecca Poynton informs the audience, The Roar is not seeking to represent all women. In fact, representation really seems like the wrong word here – this is much closer to presentation, a presentation of real, honest moments and experiences of the six young women involved in the creation of the production. Poynton’s introduction is wordy and strikes me as somewhat cliché, the same kind of disclaimer that often accompanies feminist discussions. Yet the rhetoric of it all is juxtaposed by Poynton’s movement, an utterly feline physicality that she slowly sheds as she makes her final points. There is a joyous humour in this combination, and she knows just when to pause to let the audience chuckle.
My only minor complaint is that most the multimedia aspects of the show are ineffective. Multimedia is notoriously difficult thing to pull off in theatre, and here it feels like just watching a short film in the middle of a stage production rather than an integrated and necessary part of the show. This was a surprise, given how well designed both the sound and lighting are, consistently complementing and emphasising the tone of each scene.
The entire production is surprisingly physical and funny. It is not a series of earnest monologues on womanhood, but rather snapshots adapted for the stage. We are presented with echoes of the familiar, versions of single moments that could from our own lives. Not every scene will resonate with every audience member’s own experience, and not every one needs to. The emotional power of The Roar comes from its skill in walking the fine line between the generic and the specific, carrying the audience’s empathy and identification with the women on stage from one scene to the next. It escalates towards the ridiculous and dips to the dramatic in exactly the right places. Each of the actors bring a solid sense of themselves to the stage, and it’s easy to imagine just how many rehearsals it would’ve taken them to get the emotional pitch right without breaking down.
The audience broke down though. There was a lot of crying. It should be noted that there is a content warning on the production for sexual abuse and violence. As a show that steps quickly through a whole range of emotion, it’s no surprise that it ends on upbeat and angry. As I left I couldn’t help but feel that there is power here, on stage, in women, and in women onstage.
The Roar is on at the Melbourne University’s Union House until Saturday October 10th. It starts at 7:30pm. Tickets are $15 or $10 concession, and are available online or at the door.
It seems polite to list all those involved in the show, and just to delight in how female driven this production is.
CAST & CREATIVES
Curator: Kathryn White
Dramaturg: Jess Gonsalvez
Producer/Production Manager: Emma Conley
Associate Producer: Josiah Lulham
Stage Manager: Bella Mackey
Lighting Designer: Jai Leeworthy
Lighting Operator: Sarah Pemberton
Sound Designer/Operator: Ruby Lulham
Front of House Manager: Mindi Suter