fbpx

IN THE NEXT ROOM, OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY Gets a buzzing 8/10


Directed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler
Written by Sarah Ruhl
Starring Rebecca Davis, Stuart Halusz, Kingsley Judd, Tariro Mavondo

8/10

An utterly delicious exploration of sexuality, and where one finds themselves in that space, In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play, is a hilariously saucy surprise by Black Swan Theatre Company. The beloved theatre company are currently experiencing a dawning of the age of oestrogen as they celebrate women, and it’s an incredibly fun, joyous party to attend.

The Vibrator Play is a sassy reimagining of the invention of the vibrator in the dawning age of electricity in the 1880’s. The light brought to humankind by Thomas Edison is akin to the light brought to womankind by the advent of the vibrator to cure “hysteria”. For some, religion brings the light into one’s life, but in the dark ages before our relative sexual freedom, it was the ability to orgasm by manual manipulation. But as with everything, it is often in the absence of light that truths are revealed. It is sometimes in the darkness that we truly know ourselves. It is through this exploration of light and dark, knowledge and power that The Vibrator Play discovers our weaknesses.

Hysteria was characterised as a “condition” with which women were diagnosed when they were not the mute, subservient wives their husbands expected. Opinionated women, those who spoke up against their husbands, or those who were just (often justifiably) unsatisfied with their lot in life were all diagnosed under the one banner of hysteria. The lucky ones were taken for treatment by the real inventor of the vibrator, Dr J. Mortimer Granville, and his electromechanical wonder, run by a generator, and the first sex toy of its kind.

It was truly an odd time in history – the discovery of orgasms before they were even noted as being such, using science, while doctors ultimately hid behind it as people were so terribly afraid of sex, and particularly, women’s sexual power.

In truth, we haven’t really come that far in the years since – attitudes towards sex are still relatively narrow minded, and open discussion of all things sexual are still largely held behind doors closed. The lack of intimacy in relationships is still a very real problem in 2018. So, laugh at the lightness of being within the play, but never forget that this is not that far beyond the reality for many even now. It’s a reminder of how little we have travelled when it comes to women’s sexuality.

Featuring a stellar performance from Rebecca Davis as Mrs Givings, wife of the fictional inventor of the vibrator, hilariously played by Stuart Halusz. Alison Van Reeken’s depiction of his assistant, Annie, is another standout for all the right reasons.

The costumes are impeccable, era accurate, and beautifully constructed by Alicia Clements, who also designed the stunning set. Black Swan continues to set the bar so very high for design. Unfortunately, the forced accents that so many Australian theatre companies feel the need to adopt are simply distracting and a little irritating in their inaccuracy and lack of consistency.

If celebrating women’s sexuality is your jam, and applauding orgasms sounds like a fabulous night out, you’re in for a treat. It will have you in paroxysms of your own, but through slapping your knees with laughter, rather than spreading them apart beneath a sheet.

NATALIE GILES

Photos by Philip-Gostelow

Comments are closed.