Women with a message
With Linn Van Hek and Joe Dolce
At Budinski's Theatre of Exile, Carlton, until February 25
Reviewed by Bronwen Beechey
Following successful seasons and the Edinburgh and Vancouver Arts Festivals, Linn Van Hek and Joe Dolce have brought their acclaimed production back to Melbourne for a limited return season.
Difficult Women explores through theatre, spoken word and song, the lives of women who dared to live contrary to the roles prescribed for them and who spoke out against their oppression.
Katherine Mansfield, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas are the "difficult women" portrayed by Van Hek. One thing these women have in common is that their lives and work were either omitted from history or censored and sanitised by husbands and biographers.
Van Hek makes extensive use of original writings, diaries and journals to bring to life the real women. Katherine Mansfield is revealed as gutsy, frank and sexually ambiguous. We hear the history of childhood sexual abuse behind Virginia Woolf's madness, and the wicked sense of humour with which Frida Kahlo confronted her physical handicaps.
Joe Dolce contributes strongly, providing musical accompaniment and a number of songs written for the production. He also sings a moving song, telling his own story of childhood abuse and reminding us that many men are also scarred by sexism and family violence.
Difficult Women's message is as important as ever. Try to see it before this unfortunately brief season ends.