There is no better place to gain an insight into human life than the bathroom. Those ideas are magnified when it's three young women in a share house, sharing their inner most thoughts about the meaning of life over a weekend of interactions.
Welcome to the set of Low Level Panic, a play created by British pioneer feminist playwright Clare McIntyre nearly 40 years ago.
This version, set in 1996 in Australia, is the brainchild of HER Productions co-founders Charlotte De Wit and Marigold Pazar. The 70-minute play, directed by Maike Strichow, opened last week and runs October 4-7 in an intimate set, including a filled bathtub, created at Catapult Dance Studio, 880 Hunter Street.
"It's definitely a feminist piece," De Wit said. "But the language that is used and it is written in, doesn't really sit with today's feminism, so we have set it in the '90s. We found the language really didn't sit with the way women talk about the topics and themes within the piece, so we thought setting it a little bit back would make more sense."
The three female characters (played by De Wit, Pazar and Megan Kennedy) cover a lot of territory. Body image. Sexual assault. Pornography. And everything that falls in the cracks in between, as tends to happen in conversation in an intimate space like a bathroom.
"People are absolutely loving it," Pazar said. "A lot of the feedback we've been given, they are coming and sitting down and watching something that feels like an episode of a TV series, or some kind of like, an intimate story with characters they can instantly relate to, and they just want to be able to keep following them. It's funny, and heartbreaking. But after this show, people are very buzzy and they just want to talk about it."
There are no mobile phones or laptops - the play is set in a time before the world changed how people interact. Communication was much more direct - face-to-face.
De Wit and Strichow first saw Low Level Panic in 2016 at the Old Fitzroy Hotel in Sydney.
"I just felt completely seen," De Wit said of her reaction to that first viewing in 2016. "I hadn't seen a piece of theatre that really kind of demonstrated the female experience so explicitly and so correctly, and honestly. I took a hiatus from theatre, and after Marigold and I started the company in 2021, this was my top pick. I thought it really represented our company and our brand, our ethos really well."
HER Productions is committed to representing women, amplifying women's voices and ensuring their visibility.
The innocence of the set is perfect. The play opens with the three girls just hanging out, "talking rubbish" in the bathroom of their share house.
"For me, I feel the bathroom is an archetypal safe space for women," De Wit said. "When you're at a club, or just at home getting ready, you are most vulnerable and most safest. And if you are alone in the bathroom, you can completely take every wall down. I think it's an interesting device."
As for the issues raised in Low Level Panic, they haven't disappeared.
"I like that about this play," Pazar said. "You get a chance to reflect. Whereas if you set it in contemporary time, you wouldn't. It gives it another layer of 'have we changed that much?' Or have these things transcended? But then again, we have come so far."
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