By Josephine Gazard. Crisscross Productions. Director Suzanne Millar. The Vault at KXT on Broadway. 6 – 29 May, 2023
Reviewed : 22 May, 2023
Though I couldn’t get to this production earlier in its run, it was one I was determined to see. There is no theatre more important than that which exposes wrong and inspires reaction.
When it’s written and performed by the protagonist themselves, it can be confronting and often raw – which is fine but not necessarily always good theatre. Not so with this piece. Josephine Gazard has taken it through 65 drafts to get to the point where it IS good theatre. It is still forceful, it is still confronting – but it also has all the elements that make drama theatre – conflict, tension, dimension, changes in pace and timing, characterisation … even humour.
Gazard’s play is about being raped in her first term at university. On campus. In her own room. She writes about the shame, the guilt, the isolation, the trauma. But she also writes about her grit and determination. To report the assault. To face her parents. To accept their love and support. To expose the perpetrator. To protect other victims. To let other survivors of assault know they are “worthy… loved … and have a voice … that no one can take away”.
She plays it in The Vault, the smaller, very intimate space in KXT’s new venue on Broadway. She plays it to a small audience that almost surrounds her. Sometimes she is so close that her striking blue eyes fix you with their intensity. At other times she sits, on a chair or on the floor – almost relaxed but ever edgy, watchful. Trust is something that will need even more time.
Suzanne Millar directs Gazarrd with understanding and care, in a space that is contained but allows the changes in movement that take her from eager student, to lost victim, to loving sister, to confused interviewee. Gazard pared the interview with college official down to answers alone, many of them simply “I don’t know”. The repetition of that one answer and the growing bafflement and confusion it implies is clever writing that is beautifully directed and performed.
Millar has worked closely with lighting and sound designers Aron Murray and Rose Mulcare to ensure that the effects are as restrained as the writing. Shadows haunt the story – and give Gazard places to hide and explain, just as patches of light help her justify the beginning of hope.
Gazard uses movement and gesture expressively to show the taut stress of trauma, the overwhelming heaviness of shame, the relief and liberation of vindication. Her performance is as contained as her script – but between them Millar and Gazard have retained vestiges of the shock, the rawness, and the loneliness of the victim as well as her courage and her very potent message.
This play joins all those who have written of, spoken of, or successfully exposed the perpetrator of sexual assault of any kind.
It also stands as a carefully crafted piece of theatre that tells its message compellingly.