I'm With Her at Darlinghurst Theatre Company

Darlinghurst Theatre Company presents the world premiere of the landmark production - I'm With Her.  Directed by Victoria Midwinter Pitt, I'm With Her is a compelling collection of real-life stories from remarkable Australian women. From bartenders and Prime Ministers, to world champion athletes and nuns, these are stories of resilience and resistance in the age of #MeToo and #Time’sUp.

Rosie spoke with Director and Lead Writer Victoria Midwinter Pitt about there's never been a better time to bring a work like this to the stage, and just how good female-driven work can be. Read the full interview below:

Photo Credit: Robert Catto

I’m With Her is making its World Premiere this month at Darlinghurst Theatre Company, and is an exciting new work that uncovers the brave, ingenious and darkly funny ways women have survived, outlasted, outwitted and outmuscled the patriarchy. What drew you to this concept to begin with and why do you think now is the right time to be bringing a story like this to the stage?

 

Like some many other women across the planet the MeToo moment changed my life – so many stories, from so, so many women, and at some level, they were my story too. Gloria Steinem talks about this – all social movements begin with a group of people sitting in a circle telling their stories and at some point it just clicks: if this is happening to so of us, it’s not about me. It’s political.

 

In all that truth telling, I felt like some part was often going untouched. The what happened next bit. Lurking in all our horror stories is an often unacknowledged nugget of actual heroism. Because no one experiences harassment or abuse or exclusion without – at some level – opposing it. And I just thought that if we could go in search of for those moments – from small silent thoughts of dissent to full blown public counter attack, and just laid them out, these dots too would begin to join and we might glimpse something very interesting about how women fight on and fight back. Joined together, those strengths aren’t just mine, or hers. They’re ours. They’re political.  

 

 

I’m With Her presents a collection of real-life stories from remarkable Australian women, including Counter Terrorism Expert Dr. Anne Aly, Environmental Scientist Dr. Marion Blackwell, first Australian Female Prime Minister The Hon Julia Gillard, and many more. As Director and Lead Writer, what made you gravitate towards these women in particular? How have you navigated multiple stories to create a multi-voiced narrative that represents such a large community?

 

I just started reading … and then I got on the phone and got out there and began talking. The women who gave their stories for this show were all united by a genuine interest in that spark of resistance. They understood it, and they wanted to know more. So they almost chose themselves. We wanted to work with a really wide range of women – backgrounds, ages, ethnicity, religion, occupations. Nine women – fifteen including the writers - could not possibly represent the whole wild panorama of Australian womanhood, and really that’s not what we’re attempting to do. But they take us right inside their heads and their skins, and so much that is personal and unique to them opens up very vividly for us. And inside those highly individual lives are experiences and feelings that are, of course, absolutely universal. The audience will I think really lean in to see these fascinating women shooting from the hip about their own lives. But what’s waiting at the end of that is a mirror, a glimpse of ourselves – of the power and wit and guile and sheer guts we deploy unceasingly. My God women are amazing! When are we going to get to run the world? 

 

 

In a time where male voices are frequently presented as the mouthpiece for female experiences, it’s refreshing to see a work that gives the platform exclusively to women. How has the rehearsal process been in this female-driven collaborative work? How do these stories give us a greater understanding of what it means to be a woman in Australia?

 

Look, the interesting thing is actually how absolutely natural that has felt. It’s a very, very long time since Australian women had anything to prove in terms of our competence or our talent. The only short fall is in opportunity. 

 

This is what working with women looks like – really good work. 

 

 

In a world of #metoo, why do you think it’s so important to share our experiences with others, and why do you think artistic avenues such as Theatre are a great way to do so?

 

Something happens to us when we speak and we are listened to. We change, in ways that are unnameable. The only genre I would make this show in was live theatre – to get that circuit of intelligent empathy crackling. 

 

 

Timely and political works such as this can act as a cathartic experience, or a call to action. What was your intention with I’m With Her? Can a work like this be both?

 

This show will be really cathartic but in the end, we have serious business to conduct with all that emotion. What these women have given us is a call to action in the key of the familiar. 

 

The audience are going to see themselves in these stories, and realise from a very deep and real place, how seriously, seriously powerful they are. They’re going to leave the theatre feeling properly dangerous. 

 

 

RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS: 

Favourite production you have ever seen?

NT’s Production of Angels in America, NYC June 2018; The Gabrielles The Public Theatre, Perth Festival 2018; Falsettos Darlinghurst Theatre Co, Scenes from an Execution, Old Fitz, The Bleeding Tree, Griffin. 

You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?

Madrid. I have some thank yous that need saying. 

 

Dream show to create?

Don’t roll your eyes, but this one. No question. 

 

Plays or musicals?

I don’t understand the question! Oh ok I do, but no.  Don’t make me choose. Plays, but always with music. Musicals but always with the space of silences. Deep silences. 

 

A hobby you have beyond the theatre?

Prone to busking.

 

What’s next for you after this show?

My turn to do the dishes and make the bed, I’m told. 

I'm With Her opens at Darlinghurst Theatre Company's Eternity Playhouse on November 13, 2019. You can get your tickets here.

Photo Credit: Robert Catto

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