Melbourne Fringe Review: Socially (un)acceptable changes the narrative (Howey Dowey until September 20th)

It takes courage to stand in front of a room full of people and tell a story. It takes even more courage to do so in your underwear. But to stand in front of a room full of people, in your underwear, and tell stories about your own personal experience with sexual assault… that takes a kind of bravery that most people can’t even fathom.

In a powerful performance that will have you questioning your own experiences, Adelaide native Laura Desmond delivers a raw examination of sexual assault in the modern world.

Playing for the first time at the Melbourne Fringe, Socially (un)acceptable takes the audience on a voyage through the musings of a woman fighting social pressure, discovering self-worth and understanding what it means to have ownership of your own body.

In a minimalist setting, Desmond recounts her experiences with sexual assault, dissecting her memories and laying them out bare. “Is it my fault?” she asks, “I guess I didn’t say no. Did I?” As she changes between scenes the room goes black for almost less then a second, but that second is long enough for the audience to sink into her rhetorical questions and absorb them as their own.

The simplicity of the stage, props and sounds add to the intensity of the performance. It allows the stories to take spot light and dig their nails deeper into your skin. Without giving too much away, the most confronting part is that the majority of these stories surround people Desmond had already established relationships with. People she relied on. People she trusted. This is when it starts to feel uncomfortable, as the room, mostly filled with women, starts to realise that these memories are little too familiar…a little too close to home.

Before you throw your hands up and say, “woah sounds too intense for me,” don’t let the honesty of the narrative deter you, because at the core of the show is an underlining rush of empowerment that sneaks up on you. Sympathy turns to anger which turns to acknowledgment and determination.

Why would anyone stand in front of a crowd of strangers and lay their scars bare? Because it ignites a flame, and flame will eventually turn into a fire and fire gets people’s attention.

Socially (un)acceptable delivers an extremely important message through a performance that is unique and commanding, in the most delicate of ways. It encourages a conversation that needs to be had.

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Socially (un)acceptable will be playing the Melbourne Fringe at the Howey Dowey until September 20. Tickets available here.