Anywhere Festival 2016: Love Letters to Fuckbois and Other Woes of Wayward Women
I’m going to begin this review with the bold declaration that Love Letters to Fuckbois is an exact distillation of what Anywhere Festival should be. In form, it’s simple—two women (Lia Stark, Melina Wightman) stand up and speak with awkward confidence into microphones. They introduce faux drinking games to the crowd, laugh at once together and at each other, and encourage the audience to laugh with them.
The show is simple in content, too: Wightman & Stark pull out random letters from a jar, each addressed to a fuckboi from their past, and through this lens proceed to give us a delightful sample of their romantic and sexual histories.
They do this for half an hour.
Furiously feminist and self-aware, the pair rip into the complexities, awkwardnesses, and longings that this decade of digital dating has brought on. They air memories of the fuckbois who have broken their hearts, used them, or simply not treated them like decent humans worthy of respect. Love Letters is not just a set of recalled dating errors, but is also about staunchly reminding its audience of the way young women are often treated in the 21st century—it’s a takedown of perceptions about what women want, a celebration of libido, and it’s absolutely brilliant throughout.
On stage, the pair are as awkward as they are energetic, and that combination feels genuine. To be presenting a show comprised entirely of real stories, most of which are about people who live in this small town called Brisbane, is a brave thing. And that’s what pushes this show over the line from good to great: the honesty of the commentary, the fact that exes and parents of exes were in the audience, the way Wightman & Stark are totally prepared to reenact terrible sexual experiences on top of a table in the middle of the crowd. All of this feels so true to the personalities of the women on-stage—it’s not as much a performance as it is a manifesto, because Wightman & Stark aren’t playing characters here in Lucky Duck Cafe, they’re just performing as themselves.
And they don’t get off easy, either (ha). The two ladies roast themselves, too, occasionally telling stories about when they were fuckbois to others, acting selfish in relationships and trysts alike. Through this self-deprecation, as well as stories about female fuckbois, the show makes clear that it’s painting a picture that’s less about criticising any particular gender so much as the pervasive societal attitudes that, through patriarchal power structures, tend to have settled primarily within the behaviours of men. Not that I’m defending men. We overwhelmingly tend to be fuckbois. But what I’m trying to emphasise is that this show is not some crusade—it’s not unjustified in its anger, and its anger is never misdirected. But it is angry. And that’s a good thing.
Wightman & Stark describe the thirty minutes of love letter reading as ‘the body’ of the essay that is the show Loveletters to Fuckbois and Other Woes of Wayward Women, and this is not inaccurate. In many ways the show is an education—first on the context of fuckboism, followed by a presentation of evidence around said fuckbois, followed by a brutally emotional conclusion that I don’t want to spoil in this review. The point is: I learned things from this show. As well as being reminded of the times I’ve knowingly been a fuckboi, I came to realise there have been moments in the past where I was a fuckboi without realising. And I do believe it’s important to be reminded of your mistakes, or to have them made light of, in a nonjudgemental public space. Especially in one that primarily exists as a fair and balanced discussion of the shitty things we all do to each other out of our own selfishness.
Because ultimately what Love Letters wants us all to take away is that we should just damn well treat each other right. That we should look at our partners—in whatever serious or casual context—as human beings with feelings, and we should treat them as such because they deserve that.
Love Letters to Fuckbois is important. It continues in the vogue of Brisbane-based verbatim theatre like I Want To Know What Love Is—though Love Letters is certainly braver and more personal. It’s also heavier, and rougher round the edges. It reminds us that we are not perfect while never even trying to present perfection, and that’s the most honest kind of empathy there is.
You can (and should) purchase tickets to Love Letters to Fuckbois and Other Woes of Wayward Women here.
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the opening night performance on Saturday May 7.
Full disclosure: The reviewer is friends with Wightman & Stark, and facilitated a preview of their work at Roving Conspiracy.