Have you ever toyed with the idea of gender bending; put on a pair of men’s jeans, slicked your hair back, perhaps bound your chest out of curiosity? I have. Mind you I was always a tall, drama nerd and had to play the boys parts in a lot of high school musicals. Then, it was just a bit of fun, a means to an end for the director and nothing more than me ‘playing the part’. But now as a socially aware adult, one who surrounds herself with a diverse group of people, I realise that there is more to a person than meets the eye. Gender is no longer as simple as what we wear or what we’re born with. People are increasingly coming out of the woodwork and expressing their discomfort for the way they must fit a mould in society, one they did not choose, and one that doesn’t feel quite right.


I wear my hair short. This is something women have been doing for many years, a style that goes back and forth in fashion. I like the way it shapes my face and surprisingly, it makes me feel more feminine than I ever did with long hair. However, it still stirs the way people perceive me, and although I never get mistaken for a man, I am the butt of many a ‘she’s actually a man’ or ‘butch’ jokes. I laugh because I know people close to me mean it in jest, but if someone I don’t know too well feels familiar enough to make a joke like that, it may throw me and have me questioning the way I choose to express my gender.


Jordan Harrison’s Act A Lady, directed by Andrew McMillan, showing at La Mama all this week as part of the Midsumma Festival, deals with such issues.

1927, Wattleburg,  a small town in Midwest America. The Men of this small prohibition-era town have decided to put on a performance for charity dressed in “fancy-type, women-type clothes”… the whole community is affected. eyebrows raise, gender lines blur, identities explode and the dividing line between life and the stage is blurred beyond recognition.


The play is executed with seamless precision. The performances are outstanding and the Marie Antoinette-inspired costumes are mesmerising. Initially I didn’t know how I felt about the hammy accents and melodrama but when I noticed the stitch I had from laughing, I realised they had made the right choice.


Harrison’s script is sheer quotable brilliance, leaving certain phrases resonating with you long after the play is over. One of my favourites being in Casper/Greta the Maid’s transitioning monologue, “you die a little death every time you conceal your desire” which left me thinking how often people do that.


Act A Lady tackles big issues without being a propaganda play, it is provocative and poignant, and riddled with hilarity. A must see this Midsumma Festival.


January 15- January 27

La Mama Courthouse, 349 Drummond St, Carlton.

Wed, Thur, Fri 7:30pm | Sat 4pm & 8pm | Sun 6:30pm

Tickets: $25/$15 | Bookings: 93476142/ www.lamama.com.au

About The Author

Bree Turner

Before becoming Couturing’s Lifestyle Editor, Bree was a country kid turned Melburnian, theatre maker and world traveller. Her love for writing stemmed from excessive emails sent home whilst travelling which then developed into blogs. She also dabbled in creative and review writing whilst studying a Bachelor of Performing Arts at Monash University. Bree is in the midst of an epic love affair with Melbourne, her screen play ‘when Bree met Melbourne’ is rumoured to of been picked up by no one, and in her dreams Melbourne will be played by Ryan Gosling and Bree will play herself.

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