Photos – Greta Costello
Jamaica Zuanetti, a 2015 graduate of the VCA’s MA in Writing for Performance, brings us her play, Too Ready Mirror, informed by Simone de Beauvoir’s observation: 'It is, again, one of the loving woman’s misfortunes to find that her very love disfigures her, destroys her, she is nothing more than this slave, this servant, this too ready mirror, this too faithful echo.’ Hear hear. A good start to a work, but still just the idea, whereas we do like a story or two, with a character or characters going somewhere. Too Ready Mirror, directed by Rachel Baring, is a sound attempt to look at why women do the things we do, how we sort out who we are while playing to our small strengths, especially in relation to men and the whole damn world. And presumably, all the moments where we, consciously or otherwise, glow quietly as individuals or with each other, beyond the sight of the male gaze.
The Nell Gwynne character (Jessica Tanner) didn’t completely convince, mainly because it’s hard to imagine this (by all accounts) resourceful and funny woman expressing herself to intimates in the static, languidly resigned drawl we hear on stage. Who is Nell speaking to? Why is she telling us this? I’d like a Nell reflecting on her circumstances in the voice and mindset of a woman of her time, sharing more anecdotes and jokes, perhaps. She was a personality, and an actor, something which offers room for wider performance opportunities than she’s given here.
Modern woman Ruby (Emma Annand) is an aspiring actor who we meet struggling with being roundly objectified in an audition situation. Her response when asked about the challenges of the role – ‘I’m not a prostitute!’ – is beyond tiresome. Bloody hell: does ‘prostitute’ always have to be shorthand for insulted, exploited and objectified womanhood? How much more fun would it be to hear this character say: ‘I’m a sex worker, and this role is superficial, pervy and furthers stigma; the challenge for me is in having to suck up this nonsense and take it seriously as an actor.’ Or something. Ruby goes on to engage in a much more believable power struggle with her boyfriend (Heath Ivey-Law). The play’s best parts lie in this story; these scenes offer energetic dramatic tension and invite curiosity.
The two private schoolgirls Lily (Shoshannah Oks) and Alma (Emina Ashman) come not from the future but the past, surely, slotting into near caricatures of slutty bad girl leading prim pouty good girl astray, with cutesy lesbian Unrequited Sexual Tension thrown in. Tiresome. You want them to just get it on and out the door.
The set is nice, cleanly designed with pleasing dimensions and differing levels working on a symbolic and aesthetic level. What is the audience’s role? Are we complicit girlfriends? Or co-oppressors? I wanted to hear something new in this work. More of Nell’s wit? Some of the most powerful anti-venom to victimhood lies in women’s ability to laugh at men, at themselves, at the whole damn shemozzle of enduring systemic gender oppression. An ugly phrase came to me while watching this: ‘feminist pity porn’.
Darebin Arts Speakeasy presents a Jamaica Zuanetti production
Too Ready Mirror
by Jamaica Zuanetti
Directed by Rachel Baring
Venue: Studio 2 | Northcote Town Hall, 189 High St, Northcote VIC
Dates: 15 – 28 September 2017
Tickets: $28 – $20
Bookings: 03 9481 9500 | www.melbournefringe.com.au
Part of the 2017 Melbourne Fringe Festival