Sex and gender politics skewered in Loveplay
While some are afraid of the term feminism, a playwright like Moira Buffini is not worried about confronting the concept through her plays. She demonstrates her prowess with satire through Loveplay, a thoroughly enjoyable journey that addresses gender, sexuality and queer identity, all while keeping the audience engaged and laughing. Buffini writes in a way that does not call attention to the intensity of exploring the theme of gender; rather, she presents heavy issues in the most accessible way- comedy.
The episodic structure, with each episode lasting only a few minutes, ensures that the audience is constantly challenged to think. The physical movement of actors vacating the performance space after each scene and then coming back in different costumes also keeps the mood light-hearted and the time leaps create a whimsical atmosphere. Buffini’s approach to satire is thus very calculated, and she aims to engage with the viewers’ intellectual faculties while delivering an entertaining experience.
In Loveplay, there are several instances where the characters subvert their prescribed social roles, telling the audience that they are not ready to conform and remain oppressed. So much of Loveplay is about freedom; taking agency into your own hands and doing what makes you happy, regardless of social norms. For example, the first scene of the play is where the prostitute Dorcas (cheekily referred to as “businesswoman” in the script) cons her client Marcus into paying her without actually doing anything for him. She is very intelligent, and uses negative feminine stereotypes of stupidity, helplessness and emotional sensitivity to trick Marcus. Dorcas badgers him for the entire duration of the scene, causing his masculine patience to run out, and he walks away, frustrated. This scene is important to the feminist narrative of the play, and Buffini invites the audience to laugh at the classic portrayals of women as silly, submissive and naïve in literature and popular culture. Buffini demonstrates what is possible when a woman understands the socio-cultural baggage of her gender, and is able to rise above it.
Moira Buffini (c) Martin Godwin/The Guardian
Not everything in the play is comedy, however. Buffini’s clever writing incorporates several moments of dramatic tension, where characters must make difficult choices and confront their fears. It is easy at times to get lost in the humour of the narrative, but Buffini ensures through these serious moments that the audience does not forget the central themes of the play. She also addresses sensitive topics such as rape and assault, which create short but poignant scenes.
Sex is featured heavily in Loveplay, in an attempt to erase the stigma around talking about sexuality, with special emphasis on women’s sexual identities. Several scenes require the actors to strip down or engage in sex on stage while keeping the audience entertained through self-referential humour. Buffini uses sex to show the good, bad, and ugly aspects of human nature, and how sex can be a tool of oppression and liberation simultaneously.
What Buffini accomplishes for contemporary feminist satire through Loveplay is remarkable. The play does not take itself too seriously, yet it comes from an intellectually defined position of promoting gender equality. It asks the audience to think about gender, sexuality and the oppressive societal mechanisms that hold these structures in place. Loveplay is an entertaining romp through the ages, which makes the play so appealing to viewers, but the daring humour that stings at times, exposes the tensions inherent in society’s construction of gender.
Presenter: U of A Studio Theatre
Event Title: Moira Buffini Festival
Featuring:Loveplay by Moira Buffini, October 30 – November 8 at 7:30 p.m. Matinee November 6 at 12:30 p.m.
$5 preview performances on Wednesday, October 29 at 7:30 p.m.
No shows on Sunday.
Venue: Timms Centre for the Arts, University of Alberta
Single show tickets: $11 student, $22 adult, $20 senior available online now at TIX on the Square and at the Timms Centre box office one hour before each performance.
For more information see http://uofa.ualberta.ca/events/loveplay .