Fierce is the next production that will hit the stage at Sydney’s Old Fitz Theatre. Directed by Janine Watson, it’s the story of a young woman, Suzie Flack, who is an extraordinarily talented football player and is drafted to play alongside men in the AFL.
“The play follows her first season on and off the field and uses sport to explore issues around gender, family, ambition, intimacy and shame,” says Lauren Richardson, who plays Suzie in the upcoming Sydney production.
Written by Melbourne-based playwright Jane e Thompson, Fierce had its world premiere last year at St Kilda’s Theatre Works (read Theatre People’s 2018 interview with Thompson about the Melbourne premiere here.) This new production – presented by Watson, Eloise Snape and Red Line Productions – is Fierce’s Sydney debut.
Richardson tells Theatre People about the character of Suzie.
“She is freakishly talented but also completely one-eyed and determined to achieve her goal,” Richardson says. “The play explores what that single-mindedness does to her relationships and how she inhabits and engages with the world beyond football.”
She also comments on the timeliness of this play in Australia.
“I think it’s wonderful that more attention is beginning to be paid to women in sport, people are sitting up and taking notice,” she says. “But Fierce is interesting conceptually because Suzie Flack plays against the men. The knee-jerk reaction from a lot of people hearing the premise of the play has immediately been, ‘oh but that would never happen’. But that is really beside the point.
“Fierce asks the audience to imagine ‘what if?’ What if a body can be more than what we might expect it to be? It’s that imaginative space that I find so exciting about Fierce – what would happen if we considered women might have capacities beyond our expectations, not just in sport but as people?
Asked what she likes most about Thompson’s play, Richardson describes the work as “surprising”.
“Every time you think the story is going one way, it changes course,” she says. “The characters are flawed and contradictory and we love them for it. It’s not PC or flying a particular flag or agenda, but rather presents questions and problems for an audience to wrestle with. It’s both laugh-out-loud funny and bloody heartbreaking. Plus, there are choreographed dance breaks. What’s not to love?”
We’re also told Fierce will be one of the most physical shows on Sydney stages this year. Cast members are currently in training for both Australian Rules football and boxing.
“It is a very sweaty show,” Richardson says. “We’ve been lucky enough to be sponsored by Spectrum Fitness who have been putting us through our paces in cast training sessions. It has been great for our fitness in terms of the physical demands of the production but also wonderful ensemble building. Nothing builds camaraderie quicker than getting the blood pumping and sweating [and] suffering as one.”
This Sydney production of Fierce sees women taking on the roles of director, producer and the overwhelming majority of technical roles.
“It’s been wonderful to be surrounded by so many fearless, talented women and has definitely inspired me to be braver and bolder in my work,” Richardson says. “That being said, we have absolutely brilliant men on board too. It is a very egalitarian rehearsal room and the feeling is one of lots of mutual admiration and respect for each other, as artists and human beings. [It’s] a brilliant environment to challenge and play with each other.”
Richardson also shares what it is she hopes audiences will take away from their experience seeing Fierce.
“This is a play about a very unique, flawed, complex female protagonist and, unfortunately, audiences don’t always get the opportunity to see a lot of those, so I hope they will enjoy that,” she says. “I think footy is exciting because it’s primal. It elicits great passion in people. Theatre is the same. So, I hope we stir up some of that; I hope we excite people.”
FIERCE – SEASON DETAILS
Dates: 20 March – 13 April 2019 (7.30pm Tuesday-Saturday, 2pm Saturday & 5pm Sunday)
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre (129 Dowling St, Woolloomooloo)
Ticket prices: Previews / Cheap Tuesdays: $30.00 – $35.00
General Admission / Adult: $45.00 – $50.00
Concession: $38.00 – $43.00
* Ticket prices adjustable pending demand