That’s What She Said Review
ATYP’s reviewing program was created to give young people a platform to voice their opinions and experiences while developing skills in critical reflection. The views expressed are those of the writer and do not reflect the views of ATYP or its staff.
In the intimate embrace of one of KXT’s new spaces on Broadway Street, The Vault, a single white chair welcomes audiences downstairs. Adorned atop the chair is a college jumper, a University’s cherished emblem of new beginnings, exclusivity, friendship, parties and drinking – everything that would excite a young girl for her move to the big city. But it is here, in this jumper, and the dirty world it symbolises, that her dream of college life is shattered and everything is turned upside down.
Josephine Gazzard’s world premiere monodrama That’s What She Said is a personally informed account of a sexual assault occurring on a college campus, and the rape culture that protects its perpetrator. 19 years old and accepted into a highly regarded University, she waves goodbye to her small country hometown that no one has heard of, to make her new home in a residential college in Sydney. She scores a second-hand school jumper at an orientation week stall that she proudly flaunts, excited to belong to something prestigious and exciting. But soon her fellow ‘freshers’, the first-year students, are met with hazing – oh, but the University doesn’t call it hazing these days – and she starts overhearing vulgar conversations about sex from her male peers in lectures.
After a night out with friends she wakes up to find her life has changed forever, assaulted in her own bedroom, she is overwhelmed with the emotional and psychological effects it has on her, and when she braves lodging a formal complaint with the university, she learns that victim blaming exists in more ways than just asking ‘what were you wearing?’.
Josephine’s writing is witty and funny, painting a familiar picture of the university landscape and peppering a heavy play with honest humour. That being said, the trigger warning for That’s What She Said is not to be taken lightly. Josephine doesn’t leave anything unsaid, and her descriptions and portrayal of the devastating consequences of assault, in particular the moment she wakes up in her bedroom the morning after the crime, is a taxing journey we traverse with her.
This play is a hard watch, but it also asks a hard question: if 200 sexual assaults are occurring every week at Australian universities, what exactly are we doing about it?
Josephine has a lot to carry in this play as a performer, but she does it with absolute grace. Although biographical in parts, she stresses this play is for all survivors, and that is evident by the resources scattered throughout the theatre, in the program, and by the feeling of hope the play leaves us with. As if the show itself wasn’t impactful enough, That’s What She Said is staged in partnership with With You We Can: a non-profit organisation empowering victims of sexual violence by pulling together experts, advocates and services, to demystify the police and legal processes, whilst also working to improve them. Every Saturday the show is paired with a post-show panel discussion led by victim-survivors, activists and legislators – positioning Josephine’s work as a vessel for further conversation, and change.
Not to be ventured as a light-hearted night at the theatre, That’s What She Said is a well-conceived production to make us think and question, how far have we really come? Josephine hopes her play one day becomes irrelevant, but after spending 90 minutes with her and her work, it’s clear her contributions to theatre will be pertinent and anticipated for a very long time.
Thea Jade, 22 [she/they]
That’s What She Said plays at Theatre Works until the 29th May. Buy tickets here.