INTERVIEW: 'Unrule' creator Michelle Aitken talks all things theatre and female
Unrule is a new production on at The Blue Room Theatre — home of some of the most innovative theatre making in Perth today. It’s a hilarious, horror filled exploration of the ways the bodies (and experiences) of those who identify as female are misunderstood by the health system.
Bec had a chat with director and award winning theatre maker Michelle Aitken about the inspiration for Unrule, and what we can expect from a show which references the prom scene from Carrie.
What was the instigator for this project?
Basically, it came about when I came off the pill last year. I was experiencing all kinds of side effects and just kind of felt that my experiences weren’t being validated by the medical professionals I saw… Like I was being dismissed almos or told it was normal, when I knew it wasn’t. Then I started talking to other people about it and found that nearly all of them had had these kind of horrific stories about their own bodies — or their own experiences of being in those bodies — being ignored by the people they’d gone to for help. As well as that, I guess the mental and emotional impact of having what you have to say about living in your body ignored.
So (full disclosure) I come from a health professional background and know my way around the system, and I’ve still had experiences with GPs where I’ve ended up crying in the car afterwards. I often wonder how hard it must be for people who don’t have this background knowledge to come forward and say, “This is happening to me and it’s not right, and I need help.”
Absolutely. Sometimes, the way the medical system works doesn’t line up with the way we talk about things among our friends. I think this is a really important show that not only validates our own experiences, but is also great for people who work in health to see as well.
Unrule is very much a feminist story. Do you think it’s necessary to have female only spaces or female only teams to make feminist stories?
Not really. I think there is a place for female only spaces, but I don’t think it’s necessary to tell stories from a female identifying perspective. And sometimes it’s not always the intended audience — men should be welcomed into spaces where women’s stories are told. If you look at the shows The Blue Room Theatre has held over the last year or so, there are really strong feminist voices emerging.
There’s a nice creative tension that comes from having a dude in the team, I think, when you are creating a work that is specifically about the experience of women in the healthcare system.
What or who do you think is behind the renaissance of independent theatre in Perth?
The WAAPA Performance Making degree has definitely got something to do with this, although it’s also the relationships and the people who you meet. I mean, I studied dance at WAAPA… So the connections that are made through being involved are really important. So Joe Lui (sound and lighting designer for Unrule) has been instrumental in getting people together. He’s a connector, and he’s been really supportive of this project as well.
So, how does the prom scene from Carrie figure into all of this?
You’ll just have to wait and find out.