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A raw, eye-opening account of rape culture on Australian university accommodation, and one woman’s brave decision to speak up.
I can’t fathom the strength it takes to experience sexual violence, write a play about it, and then perform that play solo. But that is what writer and performer Josephine Gazard has done in That’s What She Said, questioning “if 200 sexual assaults are occurring every week at Australian universities, what exactly are we doing about it?”
Gazard moved into on-campus accommodation in Sydney in 2021 to start university. She made friends, drank too much at parties and loved college life a lot more than uni classes. It’s the standard first-year student experience, and college quickly felt like home. But when she woke one morning having been sexually assaulted by a fellow college resident, all that changed. Gazard’s experience of the social stigma and invasive processes that come with the decision to report sexual assault showed her that the institutions she thought were there to protect her, that were her home, were in fact more concerned with protecting themselves.
Gazard begins her story as a bubbly, naïve, ‘fresher’ student. She’s generous with her audience, offering up anecdotes including embarrassing attempts to flirt with boys and dreading having to sit in the front row in class. These titbits of Aussie uni life evoke nostalgia for my own uni days and remind you of what should have been the start of a great 3-4 years for Gazard. Direction by Suzanne Millar effectively differentiates the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ in the Gazard’s story through her position and movements on the stage. In the ‘before’ Gazard stands tall, sits up straight, bounces around chatting to the audience. She makes eye contact, winks and grins as she tells each new uni story. In the ‘after,’ Gazard shrinks inward, becomes less expressive, making her depiction of the ‘after’ all the more shattering. We grieve the loss of what should have been alongside her; she is solo on stage, but not alone.
The representation of the institutional barriers Gazard faced in seeking justice is highly effective, in that it both informs and calls to action those who have the power to affect change in the system in some way. Gazard also balances her own determination to speak out with sensitivity, emphasising that survivors who don’t report for any reason deserve empathy and support, rather than judgement.
Intense beams of yellow-white lighting create clear spaces of light and shadow, which Gazard moves between based on the tone of the story in that moment. Music and sound effects are subtle, used only where necessary to add a touch of context or emphasis.
An important story, told and performed by a woman with the talent and determination to make a difference. Don’t miss this.
Purchase your ticket to That’s What She Said here.
Sparkling Wine | Wine Pairing
Gazard is very clear in her writing and speaking that this play is about hope, and the realisation that no one can take your voice from you. To me, hope is a glass of bubbly that one can clink with loved ones. So, pop the cork and celebrate the bravery, skill and achievement in writing and producing That’s What She Said.
My Pick: Phillip Shaw Events Edinburgh Sparkling NV, Orange, NSW
A cool climate bubbly made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. This is one of my favourite Aussie sparkling wines because of its unusual combination of lightness, berry and fig flavours and creamy finish that altogether have a delicious effect.
This one’s a bit on the pricer side but I promise it’s worth it! Pick up a bottle for $50 here.
That’s What She Said, CrissCross Productions | Tasting Notes
|Aussie Season||15 to 25 May 2023, KXT on Broadway, CrissCross Productions|
|Theatre Type & Genre||Play, memoir|
|See it if you like||Know My Name by Chanel Miller, one woman shows|
|Criteria for Wine Pairing||Light body, red fruits|