In The Next Room, Or The Vibrator Play: Jeffrey Jay Fowler's Good Vibrations

  • Written by  Holly Payne
  • Friday, 05 October 2018 15:39
Published in Arts  
'In The Next Room, Or The Vibrator Play' 'In The Next Room, Or The Vibrator Play' Image © Richard Jefferson

A play unlike any you’ve seen before is coming to Perth this October, and it’s creating a buzz in more ways than one.


‘In The Next Room, Or The Vibrator Play’, written by Sarah Ruhle and directed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler, is hilarious and moving performance examining the historical context of vibrators, which were originally used to treat hysteria in women.

Set in the late 1800s, at the dawn of household electricity, the play follows Catherine Givings, the wife of a successful doctor who specialises in treating hysteria.

After becoming jealous of the female patients who visit her husband to experience orgasms, Catherine begins to request that the machine be used on her, which the good doctor finds highly unprofessional. She, after all, doesn’t have hysteria.

Director Jeffrey Jay Fowler, of the Black Swan State Theatre Company, has had the play in his sights for several years and is thrilled that he finally has the chance to bring it to life.

“I started at Black Swan in 2014, and it's a show I pitched every year,” Jeffrey says.

“It's a big show, it has period costumes and it has a huge 1800s set, it is one of the biggest shows that Black Swan will do this year and so it had to fall within other things, the stars had to align.

“But even before I was working at Black Swan I read it – I've never seen it – but the first time I read it I thought it was simultaneously beautiful and political and provocative about what it was saying about what we need from others, what we want from others and our own relationship to our own bodies.”

The vibrators themselves are replicas of authentic 1800s antique vibrators – think metal, wood and a nice big power cord.

Plastics weren’t in wide use yet, and neither were batteries, so the resulting gadgets, according to Jeffrey, looked like “torture devices”.

Vibrator Richard Jefferson1
Image © Cameron Etchells

“You really can tell they were invented by men,” Jeffrey adds.

Playing the lead role will be recognisable face and Perth local Elizabeth Blackmore, best known for her appearances in 'The Vampire Diaries' and 'Supernatural'.

“I think it's a chance for some people to see some actors they know and some new people share the stage together,” Jeffrey says.

In the nine years since it was first written, ‘In The Next Room’ has been a success on Broadway and London’s West End.

Jeffrey admits that, in those nine years, quite a lot has changed in regards to how we speak about sex and intimacy.

“When you take a play from 10 years ago which is set 100 years ago, you're looking at these two separate timelines,” Jeffrey says.

“We had a really interesting time obviously, with talking about pleasure, with talking about sex, we're living in a post-#metoo movement, things have been changing in the last couple of years to do with how we talk about gender, that is different to ever.”

However, he believes the core ideas of the play still ring a bell with audiences, and hopes that the themes will promote a healthy post-play discussion.

“Whether it is sex with your partner or a more universal idea of us being on a search for what will make us happy, and what are the politics of our body, who gets to use our body, I think there's a whole range of ideas that will come up in a new light. And I think the audience will come out with a slightly different take on what is provoked within them.”

'In The Next Room, Or The Vibrator Play' plays Heath Ledger Theatre at State Theatre Centre from 20 October-4 November.

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