During the performance of RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN, I occasionally averted my gaze from the action taking place on stage to look across at other audience members to take in their reactions. I noticed some people shuffling around in their seats.
When the play ended, even before the cast had completed their curtain calls, I saw one couple start to leave. It felt like they were registering some sort of protest.
Not surprising, really. American playwright Gina Gionfriddo’s play RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN (the title comes from a typically abrasive Courtney Love song), which the playwright herself has described as, ‘a play about the state of male/female relationships at this particular time’, is a gutsy, even at times controversial play, meant to shake audiences up, more than a little. Here’s an extract:-
“ Avery: Drink is your body under the influence of alcohol and love is your body under the influence of hormones. Booze, sex, hormones…they do the same thing which is dupe you into thinking average people are great.
Catherine: What a grim philosophy.
Avery: I’m a Bio major. Evolutionary? It makes total sense. The love drink lasts about six months. Just enough time to get knocked up and trapped.”
RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN cleverly mixes a discourse on feminism and its place in the modern world with the playing out of a whirlwind reunion between old friends. She does so through the journey of her main character, Catherine (Georgie Parker). Forties something academic and talk show celebrity Catherine returns to New York to her ailing mother, Alice (Diane Craig). Whilst in NY she reunites, after over ten years, with her best friend, Gwen (Anne Tenney) and Gwen’s husband, Don (Glenn Hazeldine), who used to be her boyfriend.
During her stay, Catherine decides to run a summer class on feminism from her mother’s home. She ends up having only two students, Gwen, and Gwen and Don’s former babysitter, precocious, outspoken university student, Avery (Chloe Bayliss). Lively discussions ensue whilst Alice makes martinis for everyone and chips in with the occasional comment.
What stands out about RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN is that here is a playwright getting the audience to look at some of the big social issues happening right now. Like any drama worth seeing, the play asks questions, amongst them…How well do all the bold feminist texts and ideas stand up in the present day? What is going to be the social impact of the voyeuristic content that is freely available on the internet? Is the choice for women between family and career getting more and more difficult? Aren’t we weakening our relationships when we put so many expectations on our partners?
Sandra Bates directs the play’s Australian production well. One suspects that it won’t be long before other theatre companies tackle this piece.
The play offers good roles all round and the cast deliver. Georgie Parker is great in the lead as Catherine, Anne Tenney plays her best friend, the more conservative Gwen, the ever reliable Glenn Hazeldine plays Gwen’s husband, Don, who lives his life out in a second gear ‘fog’, Chloe Bayliss is tremendous as the tough talking but warm hearted Avery, and Diane Craig is well cast as Catherine’s wise cracking mum, Alice.
Recommended, Sandra Bates’s production of Gina Gionfriddo’s RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN is playing the Ensemble Theatre, 78 McDougall Street, Kirribilli until Saturday December 7.