Animal is a visceral, vital new work by talented artists Susie Dee, Kate Sherman and Nicci Wilks which addresses the deeply troubling issue of violence towards women.

“The inspiration for the piece came from a series of vicious attacks on women over the last few years,” explains co-creator and actor Kate Sherman. “In one instance after a woman was stabbed to death in a park a homicide squad chief detectives response was that women shouldn’t be in parks alone. We had many discussions about violence towards women and were outraged by this response and that the onus was on women needing to change their behaviour and to live in fear. Shouldn’t it be the aggressors that have to change their actions? Isn’t it societies responsibility to stand up and say enough is enough we aren’t going to tolerate this violence towards women anymore.”

“So the concept came from a need to make a piece that would bring this idea further  into the spotlight. The intention of Animal is to act as a small platform to encourage discussion and hopefully invite action to begin to change this culture of violence towards women.”

“This piece has been a long process in the making and so completing the work is very important. We have been in development, researching and creating Animal for a long time and so finally finishing the work and giving it to an audience is very exciting.”

The team have been collaborators since 2009 when inFlux was born. Dee, Wilks and Sherman came together to participate in an intensive workshop entitled “Andante” facilitated by Younes Bachir from the renowned Spanish theatre company La Fura Dels Baus.

“That workshop which culminated in a show in a large shed in the docklands was really inspiring and we had many conversations about how exciting that type of bold physical work is and how much the audience got from it,” says Sherman. “We really loved working together during that time and realised that we all share a similar aesthetic and a passion for raw new work that has heightened physicality and is visceral in nature. We also share a desire to create work that empowers women and reaches new audiences and are unafraid to make work that reveals humanity in all its complexities and ugliness.”

The very nature of a project like Animal requires many, many hours of research and connection with women. and their stories. Sherman reveals that during their research the artistic team uncovered many horrible stories, situations, facts, statistics and events. “They were of course very distressing because no matter how many times you see or read about terrible atrocities it is always nauseating and should be,” she says. “It was particularly hard during our research to realize how difficult it is for women to leave violent situations, how vulnerable they are when they do, how dangerous it is to leave and what courage it takes. “It was also difficult to read story after story of women being viciously attacked by people that are the closest to them and the light sentences that some offenders are given and then let out to often re offend again.”

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The trio hope that audiences can watch this piece and are prompted to engage in a dialog about the horrible violence that is in our society often behind closed doors. “Violence against women has really been put to the forefront of people’s minds recently and we hope to build upon this collective consciousness that enough is enough and that this has to stop, ” says Sherman. “We hope that in watching this piece it will have a physical effect on people and that if they are ever in a situation where they see or hear someone needing help that they will intervene, take action and not just turn a blind eye. Animal is saying that doing nothing is not ok and that the very act of doing nothing is a contribution to a complacent culture that accepts violent towards women. Of course men can also be victims and we are not saying that violence only happens to women but in this piece we are really focusing on violence towards women because unfortunately there is a lot more of it. We are also running self defence classes alongside the season and hope that these can give interested participants the chance to learn some basic self defence skills and act as an educational tool in a practical capacity.”

Sherman is also an actor in the work and explains that In this piece, which is not naturalistic, the 2 sisters (who are preparing themselves for society)  are not characters as such but personas. “They are idiosyncratic but also they are symbolic and in some ways two halves of the same person,” she says.” They have grown up in isolation and are in some ways twins so it is difficult to talk about the part I play without talking about the other sister played by Nicci Wilks. We refer to them as Sister 1 and Sister 2 and it is through their repetitive actions that the audience comes to understand them. They are deliberately archetypal personas because Animal is not just about these two individual women but more broadly about all women that are affected by violence.”

“Animal is minute tale of epic proportions and is a symbolic landscape where we see repetitive patterns and cycles played out that through the duration of the piece begin to break. The piece is very much about changing patterns, breaking patterns and about the two women who are born into a violent situation but who choose to leave ‘Time no more the end come for.'”

Brought to the stage by an innovative and contemporary theatre company, Animal is a must see work that will challenge and empower.  The creatives are really excited about bringing the work to an audience and Sherman credits the amazing team of people involved. ” I think it will be really interesting on many levels,” she says. “The physicality is very strong and the piece is really unique and attempts to push the boundaries of what live performance can be. This work is a dialog with the audience and they are by no means passive. We are not telling an audience what to do or think, we are encouraging them to have their own experience inside the work which I think is what live performance is all about. In past developments everyone has certainly come away with an experience of the work in their bones, which is what we believe theatre can and should do. We hope that although the material is dark it needs to be talked about and that there is certainly hope in this piece that this culture of violence can and needs to change.”

November 17 – 27

www.theatreworks.org.au

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