In todays age of AFLW and increasingly loud action for gender equality, the world premiere of Fierce could not be more timely.
Written by Jane E Thompson and directed by Alice Darling, Fierce explores the question of what would happen if a woman was allowed to compete against men in a professional sport.
The story is told through the eyes of Suzie Flack (Ellen Marning), the first ever female footy player to make it into the AFL. At times arrogant and tough but increasingly vulnerable as the play progresses, Marning turns Flack into a powerful and endearing character. Occassionally, Flack conforms to stereotypes, however as a whole it is gender expectations and stereotypes that she is fighting against.
Fierce begins with Flack being signed to a men’s team and focuses on the reactions to this by her family, teammates, coaching staff, the media and the public.
Thompson’s writing addresses themes of masculine culture, sexuality, gender identity, bullying and mental illness in a way that is powerful and confronting, however not overwhelming. Serious scenes are usually followed by humour to lighten the mood, yet the message is always present. The audience is shown a world stacked against Flack, where few people want or expect her to succeed and many actively try to drag her down. The shock that a woman believes she can compete against men is powerfully shown as ingrained in all facets of society.
As such, Syd Brisbane’s performance of both Flack’s coach and her father are refreshingly supportive and prove that there are people who believe in equality and a fair go. The acting throughout the play was exceptional, with the cast creating real and relatable characters who were easily identifiable as common personality types in society. Other than Marning and Brisbane, the cast features Nick Clark, Khisraw Jones-Shukoor, John Shearman, Rebekah Robertson and Izabella Yena, each in multiple roles.
The entire cast have great chemistry and interact with each other effortlessly. The development of the relationship between Flack and her father was particularly heartwrenching, its challenging and often all too familiar nature adding depth to both characters.
A highlight of the play was the choreographed dance scenes, which were equally surprising and delightful, leaving some of the audience in tears of laughter.
One of the most powerful scenes of the play was the reading of social media comments. In an age where social media is present in everything we do and not always used for good, the comments were realistic and relatable. Marning is able to develop such a strong connection between the audience and Flack that the impact of each word is felt as though they were being said to them or a loved one.
The impact of this scene and the entire play was immensely aided by excellent lighting which instantly set the atmosphere for each coming scene. The sets and costuming were simple but effective, perfectly suiting each character and helping their personalities shine through.
Overall, Fierce demonstrates how tough it would be for a woman to succeed in the world of men’s professional sport. The play’s powerful themes ask difficult questions of the audience but encourage thought rather than pushing a correct answer.
Due to its adult themes, this play is rated MA15+ however it will appeal to anyone over this age who is interested in sport and gender equality. The play brings a powerful message that should be expressed to as many people as possible.
Fierce is running until 8 April.
More information and tickets are available here.
Photo credit: Daisy Noyes