The Culture @ Erskineville Town Hall

Image: Tom Robinson

There are a myriad of reasons why I want to live a long time and tonight a theatre piece has brought one of these screaming into sharp relief. I want to live in a future when the audience of THE CULTURE is coming to see a period drama. When themes of street harassment, domestic violence and homophobia are akin to watching the Ancient Greeks perform for the glory of Dionysus. Entertaining but irrelevant.

There are two theatrical throughlines to THE CULTURE. One is appealing to the intellect … information, anecdotes, quotes, facts and figures … all presented in a thought provoking, character based way. The other’s appeal is to the emotions.

Will and Katie are besties, have been since school and now they are flat mates. Will has always known he was gay and even took Katie to the prom as his beard. Katie went through a stage of drinking too many shots and ending up in too many strange boys’ beds. She’s wised up since then and they enjoy hitting the bars together, even though Will would rather stay at home with internet dating apps. They support each other when street harassment, sexist or homophobic behaviour threaten their night out.

THE CULTURE tackles the 3 themes head on, no apologies, no pussy footing or niceties. But once again Jackson has crafted a show which begins with fun and humour, almost imperceptively transmuting into to the despondency and sadness which we take with us from the theatre. There is no didacticism here and her previous work, HANDLE IT, showed the same lightness of touch in the scripting.

Aided by Director Janys Hayes, Dramaturg Louise McIntosh and Brandon Wong who designed the projected Facebook posts etc , Jackson places the characters in situations which open debate rather than solve the problems. Why DO harassers do what they do? Why does empathetic and compassionate Will not care if the woman walking ahead of him is afraid? Why does strong, self-contained Katie allow the unthinkable to happen? Cleverly, as developing artist, Jackson surrounds herself with solid collaborators to give the production just this right balance .

This includes Michael Blakeley as Will . THE CULTURE is a two hander and they have powerful chemistry and real rapport. Though scripted, the dialogue is free flowing and natural. The 1 hour show has quite a few scenes, each with varying intent, circumstances and emotion and Jackson and Blakely come out of each blackout fully present. There is some terrific, if scary, physical acting and in the intimate space we have the rare opportunity to see the detail of the work, almost at a filmic level. Their belief and our suspension of belief never falters.

Unfortunately, the show has finished its run at the Sydney Fringe but it will be back I’m sure before the themes become archaic concepts. Seek it out, get on Jackson’s mailing list. It’s great theatre, great education and a great opportunity to see a 3rd wave Feminist in full cry.

And what will Jackson do when these irrelevant themes no longer need bringing to audiences? A multi-talented artist like this can do almost anything and I’m planning on living long enough to enjoy her long, long career.

THE CULTURE played at the Erskineville Town Hall for the Sydney Fringe.