Review | FEMME is an intimate and immersive experience

FEMME | Girls School | Until 7 Feb | ★ ★ ★ ★ 

The Biology classroom at the Perth Girls School is another small Fringe Festival venue and it was packed with about 50 people for the opening night of Erin Fowler’s physical theatre. Seats were arranged on either side of a catwalk that had a ladder and spotlight at one end and a large tent at the other end.

Dual spotlights inside the tent cast multiple shadows as Erin teased her audience before emerging as an awkward teenager to greet everyone. The music great – a track that spoke to the audience as Erin underwent a number of transformations after changing costumes in the tent.

The ‘pretty in pink’ dress with red stiletto heels is the first indication that her show is an exploration of ‘femininity’ and the crippling effect it has on women. This is despite all the Disney propaganda telling young girls that the dreams that you wish will come true.

The former model struts her stuff – first of all in traditional black with impossibly high-heeled boots, then in beach wear. The bridal outfit gives the audience an opportunity to interact by throwing glittery red confetti while the bondage outfit leads to some serious questioning as to our role as spectators.

Erin had dreams and ended up as a fantastic dancer with a modelling contract in Paris. Being treated as an object rather than a person lead Erin to consider the different expectations and treatment of females and males, as well as the effect it has on people’s sexuality.

A soundtrack of kids letting us know what they think about the different genders is followed by adults talking about the expectations of ‘perfect’ bodies, feeling attractive, body disorders and dissatisfaction. Extracts from the media about what some men think about women (including some of Donald Trump’s obscene utterances) fill the room as we continue to objectify her walking up and down the catwalk.

Femme is an intimate and immersive experience that was voted as the Best Dance Winner at the 2019 Adelaide Fringe Festival.

See FEMME at Girls School until Friday 7th February.

Lezly Herbert has jumped from dance (ran a ballet school) to drama (was Camille in Lady of the Camellias at uni) to film (tutoring at Murdoch Uni) to teaching to philosophising (has a Masters in Philosophy from UWA). She has been reviewing films, books, dance and theatre since the dark ages (1996).

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