Let me finish.
The Blue Room Theatre
Review: Robert Housley

The mining of life experience is a well-worn route to devising impactful outcomes in all fields of the creative industries. The process is a fast track to attaining a sense of authenticity that conceptual works can struggle to match. When this approach is applied to a performing arts context and the mined lives are those of each person on stage the impact is further enhanced.

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Writer/performer Charlotte Otton and her all-female cast of co-devisers Ana Ika, Angela Mahlatjie, Izzy McDonald and Jess Moyle put it all on the line in Let me finish with an onslaught of stories from their personal histories. No subject is off bounds as this courageous collective tells it how it is to be a young woman in Australia today.

Co-devisor Phoebe Sullivan directs (with co-director Simone Detourbet) this episodic show with finesse as it navigates its way around a minimalist frame of PVC pipes (set and costume design by Olivia Tartaglia).

This visually diverse group of dinky-di Australians bursts in to action with an infectious fervour that leaps from the stage in the intimate Blue Room Theatre. The opening scene is in a nightclub (sound design by Rebecca Riggs-Bennett; lighting design by Phoebe Pilcher). The women joke about Tinder, share tampons and fend off unwanted sexual advances from men. They chant: Fuck off. Fuck Off. Fuck Off. The f-word and c-word make regular appearances.

The first of several performed songs suggests lost innocence: “I’ve got a little girl singing on repeat my head.” Projected photographs of the performers during childhood and their reflections on those photographs offered poignant insights in to their younger selves.
And much of it wasn’t pretty. One has “thighs that are too big”; another “hair that is too frizzy”; and another “a nose that is too wide”. They talk about perfection, dieting, clothing size, same-sex attraction and self-confidence.

A lot of what was least attractive about their lives were their negative experiences with men. Yes, the Me Too movement reverberates through the corridors of this show. They confront unwanted sex, cheating and – presumably the inspiration for the show’s title – men’s inability to listen when women are speaking. They play up the clichés with considerable humour and react to the injustices with justifiable venom.

The theatrical and thematic tour de force was its simulated game show, ‘Don’t Know, Now You Know’. A string of about 25 phrases, each on individual cards, were hung with pegs on a line across the front of the stage. Among the PG options were ‘My Lovely Lady Lumps’ and ‘Bloody Murder’. Each phrase represented an experience from one of the cast members, who stood in a line across the rear of the stage. The audience were asked to  shout out any phrase. The actor who ‘owned’ the experience then stepped forward in rapid-fire fashion to explain the phrase. It was hectic and typically revealing.

Owning life experiences to move on is what this brave and brazen piece of theatre is all about. In keeping with this, the last word is owed to the women who created it, who wanted to “destigmatise the messy stories that lead to female self-acceptance and sexual empowerment.”

Let me finish. is performed Tuesday – Saturday until 20 October.

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