Melbourne, Melbourne Fringe 2015

Strong Female Character, Melbourne Fringe Festival 2015

0 Comments 30 September 2015

Opening night of Strong Female Character was undeniably rough around the edges but also overwhelmingly genuine. Rowena Hutson tells the story of her life and sexuality with charming, reckless bravery, and the audience is taken through her struggle of loving Indiana Jones and Wolverines while developing into a proud feminist. Her years of experience in comedy and clowning is obvious, and laughs were easy and frequent.

Hutson was visibly nervous as she looked her audience in the eye and apologised for needing a script onstage. It set the tone for the evening being a little unpolished, yes, but also totally unpretentious and truthful. When her microphone failed and she pushed it aside, we were gifted with more pure, direct delivery. Signs held up to the audience were fumbled, but the messages written on each one still managed to reach out and touch the heart. A wig slipping off a bald cap only added to the hilarity of her Die Hard re-enactment.

In an interview last month Hutson suggested she intended to make the audience laugh before – surprise! – punching them in the gut, and the third act delivers that punch. Her nervousness and difficulty with lines is directly attributable to this being the first time performing as herself, so it was endearing rather than frustrating when she stumbled over words in difficult passages of memory.  The climax of this gut-punch, when Hutson addresses her 14 year old self, is moving.

The 80s soundtrack was well-curated and high-energy, and fake blood was used hilariously. The cosy venue meant audience participation felt unpretentious and added to the growing feeling that Hutson really was baring it all.

After the 45 minutes with Hutson has flown by, the audience leaves with a new hero but, remarkably, no new enemy. Despite discussing troubling experiences, the resolution of the piece is women-positive without being men-negative. Unlike the films Hutson so admires, her own show triumphs without needing to crush a loser. The positivity is refreshing. A woman onstage alone, less than a metre from her audience, peeling back the layers of her life and revealing her heart. Undoubtedly opening night has sanded off the rough edges, and Hutson’s heart is not to be missed.

Strong Female Character runs from the September 26th – October 3rd at 6:45pm at the Fringe Hub Parlour Room, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne.

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This post was written by who has written 6 posts on Buzzcuts.

Bri Lee is a Brisbane-based freelancer who founded and runs Hot Chicks with Big Brains. Specialising as a writer, she is also an editor, photographer, videographer, and model. Bri is the inaugural recipient of YWCA’s Women’s Leadership scholarship. She graduated from the University of Queensland with a dual law (Hons) and arts (Mandarin) degree in 2014. Bri and all her friends are proudly feminist.

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