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Festival Fatale: An Australian-First Celebration Of Women In Theatre

Featuring a gritty, raw play that challenges the school girl experience.

18/10/2016 1:17 PM AEDT | Updated 18/10/2016 1:19 PM AEDT
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11 homegrown plays are coming to Sydney in October that challenge and celebrate the female gaze.

Australian playwright Patricia Cornelius wishes she chose another name for her play, "SLUT", which tells the story of Lolita, a young woman who represents the universal plight teens face when they don't prescribe to society's version of "the good girl."

"I made the mistake of calling it 'SLUT' because immediately, schools and many 'adults' can't cope with it," Cornelius told The Huffington Post Australia.

"It's a shame because this is a story that all adolescents -- boys and girls -- should see, to spark a conversation around something that is so entrenched in us."

In her research for the play, Cornelius visited lots of schools and various areas where kids had fallen out of the school system. Her goal was to find a something current that young people are dealing with.

"Ironically the same day an infamous crime attached to the bikie gangs was all over the news," Cornelius said.

WITS
Leading Australian playwright Patricia Cornelius together with We At Women in Theatre and Screen (WITS) will present 'SLUT' in Sydney this October.

A young woman had been shot in a fit of rage by her gangster boyfriend after another man had come to his girlfriend's rescue. This gangster not only shot his own girlfriend, but this man too, killing him and wounding her.

"The young woman was pictured on the front page of a national newspaper being dragged along the ground by her hair, the headline read 'Party Girl'," Cornelius said.

"She had a bullet in her body and she ended up losing a kidney yet somehow she was portrayed as complicit -- it was clear that 'Party Girl' was synonymous for 'slut.'"

It was all the inspiration Cornelius needed. And she would soon learn that such attitudes and beliefs were still rampant in schools today.

Lolita is the girl we all wanted to be for a time. She is out there, she's sexual and she's proud. She's the loud friend at school who walked with swagger.

"The word 'slut' was current when I was a girl and I'm in my 60s. For it to still be as hard-hitting today is just so extraordinary, it's almost laughable."

Sure, we have this fight for sexual equality and owning our own desire and body, yet there's this counteract in the language and attitude that completely crushes that and makes it look dubious.

"Lolita is the girl we all wanted to be for a time. She is out there, she's sexual and she's proud. She's the loud friend at school who walked with swagger," Cornelius said.

But she becomes worn down by it. She is too out there. Too rapacious. Too sexual. Her girlfriends at school turn on her, and eventually the rest of the world.

Cornelius wanted to touch on the virgin/slut dichotomy which says a young woman has two choices -- abstain from sex altogether, or give it up to everyone -- something she said is endemic in the attitudes of both males and females.

"It's a no-win situation to be a slut no matter how much a girl thinks her life's her own and she can do whatever she wants. A slut's a slut," the play extract reads.

Cornelius wanted to touch on the virgin/slut dichotomy which says a young woman has two choices -- abstain from sex altogether, or give it up to everyone -- something she said is endemic in the attitudes of both males and females.

"You feel so much for this pretty ordinary girl, Lolita, who misses out on really fundamental things of being included in the joy of living," Cornelius said.

"As a young woman, the only mark you can make is a sexual one and it's a very sad story."

Cornelius said the time that we're in also works against this fight for equality.

"I feel like girls are very vulnerable -- they are 'victims' whether we like it or not -- it doesn't feel safe for them."

As for whether the word "slut" is due for retirement, Cornelius said it is doubtful though, she hopes the play ignites healthy discussion.

"Language does exhaust itself. There are words that never get used anymore so that would be a terrific thing if it was to happen, but right now that feels like such a long way off."

Festival Fatale is at Eternity Theatre, Darlinghurst, October 29-30.

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