In the Club, by Patricia Cornelius, Adelaide Festival
by Jennifer Bryce
This play was commissioned by the State Theatre Company of South Australia. It shines a light on sexual violence associated with the pack mentality of young men, in this case, football players. All of the actors were excellent. There were aspects of this play that were moving and thought-provoking, but I came away asking myself: is it a play? Where is the drama? At times it was almost more of a kind of dance; Gazelle Twin’s electronic music creating an at times haunting, at other times ‘in your face’ atmosphere, and the actors interacting with the ever-present water on stage, which one might say is also a character, although I’m not certain of the role it plays.
There are three young women and three young men. On the whole, the men represent ‘the pack’, although through Angus, in particular, we can see how individually they want to do ‘the right thing’, but the pack mentality takes over. The play starts with each of the young women telling her story – and each is very different. As a result of being pack-raped at 16, because she was keen on the footballers, and genuinely interested in the game, Annie becomes a nymphomaniac – she seems to know no other behaviour and to be utterly unable to assert herself. I did wonder whether she represents how the footballers see such women who naively offer themselves to the strapping young players.
Olivia is romantic and influenced by external pressures and conventions – she wants to fall in love and, although she has no interest in football, when she meets footballer Angus, she thinks, for a moment, that she has found the real thing. Total disillusionment. After glorious sex, Angus says he will be back in a moment. We are told that the pack takes over. Olivia is left lying in the water in a foetal position. Ruby reckons she can handle the men. She seeks out sex with the sleek, muscular footballers, but she is canny enough to have them one by one.
That was the play. It focused on the women, yet, if I came away with anything it was a disturbing awareness of the power of the pack. And the water, misting everything, sloshing, reflecting; suggesting something primal.
Thanks, Jenny. Patricia Cornelius doesn’t hold back. I love her for this.