Review: Genderification (The Leftovers Collective)

Venue: Surry Hills Library (Surry Hills NSW), Sep 27, 2018
Director: Curly Fries
Cast: Mara Aplin, Andrew Guy, Dr. Jessica Kean, Sophie Kelly, Kipp Lee, Ladonna Rama, Rosie, 2 Boys in Saris

Theatre review
An ancient text from the Jacobean era is presented seven times, in vastly different ways, with Dr. Jessica Kean appearing like a master of ceremonies in between to facilitate discussions around the gender that we had observed each time. Although not always obvious, the performers in separate instalments have something individual to say about identity, and we are encouraged to consider the phenomenon of gender as a kind of social exchange, involving not only interpretation but also intent. Genderification is an exercise in respect, of understanding the boundaries between what we think to be female and male, and the infinite ways that each person might conceive of themself in those gendered terms.

These are sophisticated ideas, embodied by all the actors who bring fascinating dimensions to the overarching discussion. Performer Sophie Kelly’s bold approach makes a sensational statement about femininity, within oscillating contexts of time and class, to confront our petty bourgeois attitudes. Ladonna Rama extends reflections to something futuristic, almost post-human in their rendering of a theme that is often too binary in our estimations. Not everything is dealt with a satisfactory level of rigour in Genderification, but we certainly do encounter important questions that seek to broaden our minds, and expand our hearts.

It might be easy to imagine a world without gender, and hold dear those ideals, but to navigate real life, we require daily strategies, both conscious and unconscious. We have to deal with prejudice, with how others react to the self, based on shorthand information that can only ever be cosmetic and shallow. Sexism wants us to attribute to people, qualities that are ultimately unjust and erroneous; strong or weak, good or bad, respectable or shameful, these presumptions that force people into categories that will enable an oppression that is ultimately of benefit to no one. To debunk gender, is to help us be rid of that sexism, but in the meantime, we can all be wiser, and kinder, in how we treat each gendered subject.