If your skirt is too short, you’re a slut. If you cover up, you’re a prude. If you show just a little, you’re a tease. In a world where judgement and blame will follow women around no matter how they choose to live their lives, it is a shame to say that Lulu, a controversial play originally written by Frank Wedekind in 1892, is still relevant today.
Taking on difficult themes not limited to child abuse, suicide, rape and murder, Lulu makes for a challenging piece, exploring desire alongside today’s culture of victim-blaming and deeply embedded misogyny in a brutal, confrontational manner. It begins with an uncomfortable montage showcasing the media’s relentless insistence that women be seen as objects, inevitably winding up to feature the delightful Donald Trump. After that, the updated play’s references to the present day were recognisable if slight, with the odd nod to referendums and snap elections.
The cast as a whole were strong, effortlessly taking on a number of roles each with skill. Lulu, played with tragic allure by Lizzie Stanton, comes across at first as completely in command, of herself, her sexuality, and the men around her. This confidence is rapidly dismantled as she is passed around the men in her life, each taking far more than they give. Stanton’s performance is one of subtlety, seeming at once both confident and vulnerable, a victim and a survivor. It’s interesting to consider how the perception of, and sympathy for, Lulu’s character may have shifted through more progressive lens of the 21st Century.
The design team pulled off a slick and stylish production with an offbeat use of props, as well as employing clever and often humorous use of silhouettes and projections that heightened the melodrama already cloaking the story.
While some familiarity with the original play might be beneficial to grasp the number of characters flitting through the story, New Venture presents a brave performance of a depraved, demanding and ultimately tragic play, with a dramatic and distinctive presence.
Image: Strat Mastoris.