What: Socially [un]acceptable
Who: Laura Desmond
When: Feb 15-March 2
Where: The Niche at The Producers, Adelaide; Riverside Room at The British Hotel, Port Adelaide
Tickets: Full Price: $10-$20, Concession $10-$15
Details Available here
Content Warning/Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Rape, Emotional Abuse
On first walking into The Niche at Producers, I was struck by the small, intimate space, a dozen-odd chairs pushing onto a small performance space. That feeling of intimacy continued throughout Socially [un]acceptable, Laura Desmond’s raw show on sexual assault and survival. Desmond’s powerful performance comes at a fitting time: the waves in the wake of the #metoo movement have created a cultural moment where the pervasive and unrelenting sexism, assault and violence that so many women face is able, finally, to be spoken about. This seems like the right atmosphere for Desmond’s message to be heard: if we are only willing to listen, and change.
Desmond’s stage presence is at once casual and controlled, slowly drinking a beer throughout the show while also clearly choosing her words very carefully. The open honesty of the show makes for a confronting performance, while being all too familiar to too many people. Discussing her own personal experiences with sexual assault, Desmond weaves together tales of her time in college during her uni days, and her experiences during previous Fringe seasons to explore the way our society views sexual assault. Desmond points out the inadequacy of our perceptions of assault and violence; how anything more nuanced than rape in an alley at knifepoint is swept under the rug as a ‘socially acceptable’ brand of assault we excuse or justify, even to ourselves.
From her first moment, walking into the room in just a bra and underwear, Desmond seems comfortable in front of a crowd, despite the extremely personal and often upsetting content of her show. I did notice at least one audience member crying during the show, who later went up and hugged Desmond afterwards, a testament to the intimate writing. Directly addressing the room, Desmond uses singing and frequent costume changes as a break between each story. Pop hits such as Britney Spears’ Hit Me Baby One More Time, and Amy Shark’s Adore You juxtaposed with stories of assault and violence lead to uncomfortable realisations of the normalising of assault (sexual, physical or emotional) against women in all our popular media. Ending her show with a direct plea to the audience to change the narrative of assault in their own lives, Desmond’s work, while confronting and certainly not for everyone, is a timely exploration of one woman’s personal experiences, reflective of so many more.