Review by Hannah Fredriksson
Welcome back to Perth Fringe Festival 2021! If the last year has taught me anything it's to not take for granted the ability to enjoy some live entertainment in a room full of strangers, so I'm very excited to be kicking off my fringe season with a one-woman cabaret called Friendly Feminism for the Mild Mannered. Having previously received several awards at Adelaide Fringe Festival in 2020, this year marks it's debut in Perth. It was a hot evening and I could certainly feel the temperature rising as I ascended a flight of stairs to the chemistry lab at Girls School. (Could there be a more appropriate venue for this show?)
Millicent Sarre is incredibly endearing from the moment she steps on the stage. Though she describes herself as an 'angry' feminist her presence is so bright and welcoming, taking the audience on a journey through kindness and education. One of the numbers is even a playschool-style ditty, using tea as a metaphor for consent with a mild air of British sensibility reminiscent of Mary Poppins. This song does call for a small amount of audience participation, but the shy among us need not fear as participation is purely on a consensual basis, you know, as most things ought to be.
She shows incredible versatility by playing both the keys and ukulele, as well as performing a self-described 'white girl rap' of The ABC's of Feminism. Though the alphabet is not quite complete, missing 'X' and a few other letters here and there, I'm willing to overlook it due to the epic delivery of empowering content.
The highlight for me was a bluesy number called 'Mansplain', the musical equivalent of an eyeroll. The comedic timing that breaks the momentum of the song was on point, I appreciated that she even took a moment to mansplain the humour behind her own song in a delightfully self-aware contradiction.
While the first half of the show was light-hearted and amusing, the second half was distinctly intimate in nature as Millicent shared her own experience of abuse and the sobering reality of being a woman – or indeed a member of any marginalised group. The lighting shifted to a lone spotlight on Millicent and her keyboard in the darkened room. She delivered her soulful ballads with earnest authenticity and the audience was dead silent, hanging on her every word.
Despite sharing her uncomfortable experiences, she acknowledges that she is actually fortunate to be in a position of privilege due to other factors, and that being considered 'less than' is not exclusive to being a woman. She hits the nail on the head when she asks "I've got privilege dripping from every pore, so what am I gonna use it for?", inviting the audience to assess their own behaviour and take advantage of the ability to incite positive change.
Running on weeknights and with accessible shows on Saturdays, Friendly Feminism for the Mild Mannered runs until 31st January. It's essential viewing as it speaks to a universally uncomfortable experience shared not just by women but by anyone in a marginalised position, and shares it in a way that doesn't berate or accuse anyone of wrongdoing. It's a rallying cry for those who consider themselves feminists, and for others it is a gentle nudge in the right direction.