Trigger warning for sexual assault survivors.
Off the back of Edinburgh and Melbourne Fringe Festivals, Laura Desmond brings us socially [un]acceptable: a raw stage performance which details one woman’s personal experience of sexual assault through a series of autobiographical vignettes.
A powerful performance, paired with anonymous portraits of sexual assault survivors by Adelaide artist Stephanie Mitchell, socially [un]acceptable is unapologetically honest and confronting and aims to help give young people the strength and the confidence to be true to themselves.
Adelaide’s Laura Desmond took the time to tell us about the format and feel of her self-devised show.
“It’s a little bit hard to describe. It almost reads kind of like diary entries. There’s not really much of a fourth wall or anything,” she says. “I’m just up there talking about where I was at the time or what party I was at or how I was feeling. It is very introspective, but it is very kind of casual as well. The language I use throughout the show is very accessible. It’s everyone just having a chat with somebody.”
In light of the #metoo revelations and re-directing the conversation about rape culture, Laura says theatre is an excellent vehicle to make much-needed changes to society.
“Theatre is a really bold way to do this. I think theatre is quite a lot more impactful on audiences than watching a TV show or seeing a movie. I think the immediacy of theatre is what brings out a lot of emotions in audiences,” she says. “I think the fact that it is, no matter how many times I practise it, it’s still going to be a little bit different every night, and it does depend on how the audience is reacting to some elements of my show and emotion that I sort of convey in my lines depending on how the audience is responding. I think theatre is in your face, a little bit harder to be ignored, and as an audience member, I feel like you’re more likely to relate to the message and relate to who it is onstage.”
Since performing socially [un]acceptable at various festivals, Laura says that crowd reaction has been varied, but always positive.
“It’s been interesting. Most of the audiences I’ve had in Australia, I had known personally, so obviously I’ve received reasonable amounts of support from people I know. After my first performance in Adelaide, which was a fundraiser before I went to Edinburgh, there seemed to be a lot more of a general, ‘Oh, congratulations on pulling this together,’ rather than too much about what I had been through and the show itself,” Laura says.
“When I was performing at Edinburgh and 98% of my audience were unknown people, I feel like they connected with the message a bit more because I wasn’t someone they knew, and so the only thing that they knew of me was the experiences that I’d gone through and what I presented on stage.”
In performing socially [un]acceptable, Laura hopes to make an impact on the current social climate and attitudes towards women, sexual violence and inequality.
“I want people to change their attitude on what sexual assault covers, because I think that it’s a bit of a mentality that sexual assault is just rape; and sexual assault covers so much more than that. But also, there’s a bit of a view that everybody puts up with something in their late teens, early 20s, whatever, everybody goes through these periods with people where they do just take advantage,” she says.
“There’s been this nonchalant attitude that it’s almost like a rite of passage to go through some lower level sexual assault. I would like that attitude to change and say it’s not okay for everybody to have to go through some form of sexual assault as a part of growing up or going through puberty or anything else.”
We quite agree.
You can catch this incredibly important show at The Producers. Grab your tickets HERE.