Theatre review: Bad Feminist, Blue Room Theatre

There are ethical questions aplenty in this comedic treatment of a moral dilemma.

Audrey (Rhiannon Bryan) and her boyfriend Benji (Harrison Lorenz-Daniel) were moving in together. Everything seemed perfect, until a phone call from Benji’s best friend, Elle (Harper Nguyen), altered Audrey’s perception of the person she thought she loved. Rape culture, complicity and the implications of social media use were examined under a theatrical microscope in this comedic treatment of a series of moral dilemmas.

Running quantum scenarios in which Benji both did-and-didn’t commit sexual assault against the mysterious Cate (Abigael Russell), Audrey’s rewound-realities were acted out on stage and screen for the benefit of the audience. Each scene grappled with additional ethical aspects, and critiqued – no, criticised – problematic language, immoral behaviour and illogical complicity.

The script pitted belief against loyalty, highlighting the double-edged sword generally known as the benefit of the doubt. Tricky topics were woven throughout the narrative with humour and sensitivity, without being didactic. The power of disclosure, the difference between regret and assault, and the chasm between the transgressions of a stranger and those of a friend were explored through emotionally charged character interactions. 

Elle’s cryptic phone call led to the shattering of trust in a seemingly idyllic relationship. But, as Audrey underlined, ‘seeming isn’t being’. Audrey battled against her own moments of internalised misogyny as she struggled with judgement against other women, both real and imagined. She was forced to question her values and choose between contradictory moral priorities. 

Subtly comparing ideologies, Bad Feminist cleverly demonstrated a variety of reactions and attitudes through the dramatisation of potential behaviours. From Insta-stalking to ‘choosing violence’ on TikTok, the dialogue leans into Gen Z humour while poking gentle fun at outdated slang. 

The power of choice and the irrevocable nature of action were major themes of this work, as evidenced by the plot, dialogue and time-looping structure. The question of what constitutes assault (and the changing boundaries of all that it entails) was explored with nuance, underlining the impact of social media on relationships, identity and perceptions of morality. Gossip, paranoia and questions of consent featured heavily in the exploration of hypotheticals, with a focus on women’s attitudes towards men and one another.

Despite the serious subject matter, comedic moments abounded, including (but not limited to) a baby in a basket, a cactus in a gunfight and the subtle existence of Schrödinger’s packing boxes. The set – which consisted of said boxes, a bed, cushions, thematically-relevant movie posters and a cleverly-utilised projector screen – felt youthful, casual and contained a lot of pink. 

The script was testament to the intellect and creativity of playwrights Abigael Russell and Holland Brooks, who brought the dark to light with comedic flair and social resonance. The talented cast played each role to perfection, with every actor able to embody a full gamut of human emotion. The most argumentative scenes were realistically intense, but the script’s embedded humour – enhanced by the cast’s ability – more than compensated for any intermittent tension, keeping the overall atmosphere light despite the potential emotional drag. 

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Bad Feminist contained witty and insightful observations pertaining to the impossibility of certainty, and the uncertainty of possibility. It was as accessible as the romcom posters incorporated into the set, but far more confronting. And definitely funnier. 

Bad Feminist
The Blue Room Theatre, WA
Writer/Producer/Performer/Sound Designer: Abigael Russell
Writer/Director: Holland Brooks
Lighting Designer: Jolene Whibley
AV Designer: Emmason Tucker
Stage Manager: Kira Feeney
Graphic Designer: Andrea Lim
Actors: Rhiannon Bryan, Harrison Lorenz-Daniel, Harper Nguyen

Bad Feminist was performed from 31 January – 4 February 2023

Nanci Nott is a nerdy creative with particular passions for philosophy and the arts. She has completed a BA in Philosophy, and postgraduate studies in digital and social media. Nanci is currently undertaking an MA in Creative Writing, and is working on a variety of projects ranging from novels to video games. Nanci loves reviewing books, exhibitions, and performances for ArtsHub, and is creative director at Defy Reality Entertainment.