Provocative playwright Patricia Cornelius’ new work is presented in collaboration with State Theatre Company at the 2018 Adelaide Festival.
While Patricia is no newcomer to the Aussie theatre scene, the excitement in her voice is palpable when I call her during rehearsal for the production.
“It’s wonderful, just to see it all coming together,” she says.
“To able to be here with the first script, and be able to refine stuff, and tweak it, it’s really satisfying.”
'In the Club' centres on the ‘pack behaviour’ of Australian footballers, and the damaging consequences incurred by women when it is taken beyond the sporting arena and into the social arena.
“In taking up the idea I knew I had to find a way in… That wasn’t too thematic,” Patricia says. “Not just saying a whole lot of things that you expect people to say when you put football and rape culture in the one sentence. To find an 'in' to that world was totally up to me.”
That was a year ago, when State Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Geordie Brookman brought the commission piece to Patricia. Since then, the prominent #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have added weight to the production’s message. 'In the Club' is now operating within a period of “a kind of consciousness about abuse, be it really small, or very brutal and grand,” Patricia says.
By design, the script aligns itself with the formerly silenced women of these movements, amplifying the voices and stories of its strong female protagonists. This wall of irrefutable common experience is the “in” Patricia needed to make the work incendiary.
“There’s still something about what we’re doing on a bigger scale – taking back the space… We’re not going to hide it anymore – this sort of fantastic feeling of 'let these women talk, let these women strut themselves, and get it out',” she says.Click here to enter a competition to see 'In The Club'.
The ‘fantastic feeling’ she mentions is one of empowered rebellion, when the women featured in the play can express their outrage at the football darlings, the champions we call ‘our boys’.
“Football and this culture, this dreadful culture, is just a microcosm of the broader world and we know it,” Patricia says. “To not remind the world, to remind the audience of that would be a real shame.”
Meticulous research, documentation and processing of a broad library of sources informs the stark audacity of 'In the Club'.
“I feel like sometimes it’s bleak… It’s sometimes surprisingly really bleak,” Patricia says, of the heartbreaking stories she unearthed from news reports, footballers’ biographies, online recounts of survivors. “Because, I mean, what do we do? We kind of just get on with it, we find strategies to work around the different levels of abuse – we strategise so much that we almost forget it is abuse.”
Writing the script for 'In the Club', Patricia says she found a “great life force” within the tragedy that audiences are hungry for.
“There is such drama in the world that we pretend doesn’t exist in this country,” she says. I want to go, “Hang on! Hang on! – who are we, and how are we not complicit in how our people are considered to be so undesirable, to the point that they don’t exist on our stages? It’s exciting!”
Patricia’s politics are armed with poetry, women weaponised with words, and plays uninhibited by politeness – her 25th effort is on track to hit the mark again.
State Theatre Company presents 'In the Club' at the Odeon Theatre 27 February-18 March.