Budinski's Theatre of Exile
388 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
March 24 & 31. Bookings 417 4791. Cost $6
Reviewed by Jolyon Campbell
Above an unobtrusive cafe in Fitzroy is the current home of a small but original theatre company. Budinski's Theatre of Exile (named for the great, albeit previously non-existent, Croatian playwright) brings together a range of performers who find themselves outside the mainstream performance industry. Exiled people, exiled ideas, exiled art forms.
In a comfortable and relaxed space, as easily laid out as a candle-lit cabaret (including a bar) as a conventional theatre, they bring together actors, dancers, poets, comedians and others to create a professional but intimate atmosphere for artists and their audiences.
Frequently the material is also off the beaten track, taking on ideas, themes and issues shunned by the mainstream theatre venues.
The theatre's latest presentation, Difficult Women, tackles just such a theme. Actor Linn Van Hek's heroine is a woman who said inappropriate things in inappropriate places; the aim of Difficult Women is to unearth one by one women who found it necessary to speak loudly and impolitely about their experiences as women. Where their words have been dismissed as contrariness or caprice, we are invited to see reason, wit and inspiration.
Van Hek and Joe Dolce perform a set of readings, poems and songs exploring and celebrating the courage of these "difficult women's" words. In the fierce bitterness of Sylvia Plath's last poems, they find a scathingly insightful if ultimately defeated woman trapped by a world seemingly created for men.
Behind Gertrude Stein's indomitable, inescapable and furious wit, we are shown a woman who refused the stereotyping, marginalisation and silencing of the repressive society in which she lived.
We share the words of anger directed by black American woman Sojourner Truth against a society which claimed to hold women in reverence and then literally held them in chains. And there are others.
The style of delivery is unlaboured and familiar, allowing the theme material to occupy centre stage, and the women's own words are brought to life by Van Hek's and Dolce's original songs and poems. The mood flows from the stirring to the humorous, and while the act is serious in inspiration, it is entertaining and inspiring rather than demanding.
If you did not know that Mahatma Gandhi drew inspiration from the suffragists, or that it is not appropriate for lesbian poets to be modest, or if you simply haven't found live performance that is lively, relevant and inexpensive of late, then Difficult Women, and the Budinski Theatre, may reward you.