By Rosie Niven
Described aptly as a ‘middle finger to the patriarchy’, I was already very excited to see this show. When Charlotte Otton arrived on stage in a Bo Peep-esque singing dulcet tunes about fisting the patriarchy until it bled out on the floor, I was caught hook, line and sinker.
Perth-based theatre maker Otton has created Feminah, an experience that is part history lesson, part feminist call to action, as we delve through history to see just how far women have come. Or have we not come that far at all? Filled with personal narrative, poignant songs and an unapologetic resistance, the audience is taken on a wild 60 minute ride that for some of us, felt all too relatable. Feminah celebrates women while critiquing the ways in which the patriarchy has held us back, and from the many cheers from the audience, it seems they’re readying to revolt too. Not only does Feminah celebrate women, it celebrates the women history often forgets - the wild women, the vulgar women, the women who want to take their clothes off and be angry and scream from the rooftops. Here, these women are given a voice, and we stand with them.
Otton is a skilled storyteller, and her ability to weave personal narrative through her fascinating history lesson adds a sense of weight to the work. When she tells us about how different eras shaped women’s bodies, she shares with us her own struggles with body image, and how standing here in front of us right now, she’s terrified to be seen as unfuckable. Even in the midst of her empowering performance, she’s scared of not being sexy. This resonated with many of us in the audience, and the engaged audience nodded in understanding. Every time a part of feminist history was shared with us, we were very quickly reminded of how real this history is. Standing in front of us was a woman directly impacted by that history and its treatment of women.
Although the celebration and storytelling are the most significant parts of Feminah, Otton’s brilliant vocal talents must be noted. A master of different styles, she switches effortlessly between outdated ballads and hypersexualised pop hits, and no matter where she takes us in time, we are rapt. This ability to capture her audience only lends itself to the hilarity when she breaks the moments of song with social commentary about how completely ridiculous these songs are. I mean, Britney Spears told us we should all be slaves to men, and we just agreed?
Feminah takes the idea of a woman ‘having it all’, and completely annihilates it. What if we don’t want it all? What if we just want the same as everyone else? Feminah will empower you, make you angry, make you dance, but most importantly, remind you that you are not alone in this fight.
Feminah is only on this week at the Sydney Fringe Festival, and I urge you to go and celebrate all the angry, vulgar women you know, or maybe are yet to know. Get down to the Old 505 and come fist the patriarchy.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.