As a young white man, I have never had to worry about walking home alone at night. In fact, I have done it often, in the early hours of the morning and sometimes after a few too many drinks. Unlike most women, I've never had to worry if someone is following me, if someone has looked at me for a moment too long or being careful how I react when a stranger approaches me to tell me I am beautiful. Made for one audience member at a time, the immersive theatre piece presented by The Honeytrap for Melbourne Fringe Festival, The Maze, allows me to experience this for the first time through the thoughts of a woman walking alone - and it left me significantly troubled and concerned.
The show begins with writer/director Kasey Gambling meeting with me to go through a checklist to make sure I am fit to walk alone. My neckline is high, I am wearing flat shoes - but I must be cautious of my hair as it is long enough for a man to use to grab me. I also do not have my nail-polish that detects date-rape drugs that may be dropped into my drink nor am I carrying an anti-rape condom. Despite these oversights, I am deemed fit to walk home - but should proceed carefully.
I don a pair of headphones and stand a few metres from a lone girl, Libby (Libby Brockman) at the tram stop. Through the headphones, I hear her thoughts, conversations and texts that she sends. As she begins her walk, I witness first hand the harassment and objectification the character receives from strangers. The Maze runs to a strict time schediule and all the actors (including Stephen Whiley, Jez Hunghanfoo and Travis Pemberton) ensure this is achieved.
I am also very conscious of the fact that I am following this woman and while she does not acknowledge me, I can't help but wonder what a creep I must look to anyone watching me watching her. As an audience member and reviewer, I am intently viewing the performance; to an outsider, I am some weirdo leering at a woman.
Gambling explores the issues around violence against women in an intelligent and honest way. There are numerous times throughout as I am following Libby that the audio (by sound designer Gavin Ingham)
tellingly cuts to “commercials” advertising women’s safety products or
to factual pieces of news, such as when Det. Insp Mick Hughes stated women were not safe alone in parks after the killing of Melbourne schoolgirl Masa Vukotic.
Gambling also builds skillfully on the suspense of the narrative, gradually dropping hints throughout the walk that have you thinking this story had begun well before you joined it, but you don’t realise what you are being led to is until it actually happens – and it almost stops you in your tracks.
I've been very fortunate that each of the immersive theatre events I have attended so far for Melbourne Fringe Festival have been unique with a clear objective in mind - and The Maze is another great example. This site-specific performance explores the threats and dangers a woman faces just for being women, and as the show concludes, I am let out into the night,alone and unsettled, and mut begin to process what I have just seen.
Venue: Joe Taylor (meet at front) 7 Errol St, North Melbourne, 3051
Season: until 2 October | Tues - Sun 6.30pm, 7.30pm, 8.30pm, 9.30pm
Length: 40 minutes
Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival
* Original review appeared on TheatrePress on 20 September 2016.