Superbly written by Jane e Thompson, Fierce is a beautiful nuanced play that highlights gender disparity in sports. I was riveted throughout.
Suzie Flack is better than other female AFL footballers. She doesn’t want to play in the women’s league. Rather, she’s intent on competing against men. And she gets her chance to do so, only it’s hardly smooth sailing.
There’s so much happening here. What starts out as a seemingly straightforward premise develops and expands. Fierce gives us lots to think about. The play explores Suzie’s relationship with her coach, father, journalists and teammates. Then there’s her sexuality. She’s trying to find her true voice while making it in the big league … in a man’s world.
The action moves along at pace. We gain an understanding of the difficulties this talented young footballer faces. Ironically, being as good as she is creates major problems … problems that only later do we find out started in childhood.
Fierce is distinguished by some wonderful performances, none better than Ellen Marning who plays Suzie, and Syd Brisbane who fills the role of both her coach and mentor, Corey Anderson, and her ailing father, Ray. The others in the seven-strong cast – Rebekah Robertson, John Shearman, Nick Clark, Izabella Yena and Khisraw Jones-Shukoor – all fill multiple roles.
The set is simple and highly effective, as exploited in the opening scene. A woman is aggressively pounding a punching bag. In the background is a carefully sculpted walkway, ingeniously created from hanging cloth in colours reminiscent of AFL club Port Adelaide (Yvette Turnbull is the set and costume designer). It represents the players’ race leading to and from the football ground. Props – such as armchairs and benches that can be found in change rooms – are carried and wheeled in and out as appropriate. The soundscape is punctuated by short, adrenaline-pumping interludes (Russell Goldsmith is the sound designer).
Fierce is a rich world premiere production directed by Alice Darling that speaks volumes about society’s expectations and values. I love football and I love theatre. In playwright Thompson’s hands, they make for an incendiary combination.
Fierce is playing at Theatre Works in St Kilda until 8 April 2018.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Venus in Fur (Lightning Jar) – theatre review
- The Longest Minute (QT) – theatre review
- Polygraph (Theatre Works) – theatre review
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television