Muff, the latest production from independent Adelaide theatre company five.point.one, is heavy, hard hitting theatre that leaves its audience with no easy to digest emotions. Written by Van Badham and directed here by Alison Howard, the work explores women, sex and relationships; a horrific, random rape of a young woman and the threads from this event that continue to wrap and bind their way into lives years after the physical injuries have healed.
Eve (Claire Glenn) has moved back to London from China, a country she moved to in order to reclaim herself, and has moved into the spare room in the flat of her ex-boyfriend, Tom (Brad Williams). There, she has to negotiate how to return home and meeting Tom’s new girlfriend Manpreet (Serena Moorghen), while Tom must come to grips with a relationship that fell apart after Eve was raped.
Myf Cadwallader’s set casts a sterility over the proceedings: furnishings of white against walls of opaque white plastic and steel frames, in corners lie discarded limbs of mannequins The walls are repositioned to create different spaces: opening up one half of the stage or the other for the bedroom or lounge, or closing off the space to create the bathroom seen only in shadows. The cast move these walls slowly and calmly. Despite the tension in the work, Howard paces the actors to a steady and slow beat. In this environment, her direction frequently casts a clinical eye over the proceedings. These people, it feels, are there to be watched, their pasts and presents there to be analysed, but empathy or connection is a step too far.
Through this clinical lens, Badham’s text brings up interesting questions in relationships and sex: Eve and Manpreet discuss, or rather argue over, radically different views of the sexualisation of women: on pornography, of waxing, of violence and sexual games. Badham’s characters experience violence that is real, and a game of violence that exists invited and within boundaries in a relationship. These different strands compliment and fight against each other, creating a world that is messy and complex, representing the multiplicities of people and the way they each see the world.