I wrote Fierce as a response to another work I thought biased and damaging for sexual assault victims, especially when the alleged perpetrators are men in power, men we hold up in the culture.
Naturally the play has politics close to the surface. But I never wanted the politics to boil over. With this play the most important thing was to find a premise explosive enough to gather scenes in the wreckage, to then work into some kind of narrative.
Writing the play literally had me sitting around thinking, “Okay, so if that happens, what’s next?”
If a female AFL player is signed by a men’s team, what could happen?
If she’s spent her entire life training, what has she not had time for, and what does that mean?
Who trained her? Probably her father especially given that girls were not allowed to play with the boys past the age of 12 or 14 when she was growing up. What is the relationship with her father like?
So before the politics or the themes or whatever you want to call it, it’s behaviour. And our behaviour is intrinsically political. It is shaped by the culture that works against you, or for you. Either way, we are most definitely affected by it. And we meet other people affected by it and they shape our behaviours – family, friends, some random on the tram.
This character, Suzie Flack, has her own biases and motivations shaped by her father, shaped by the TV and the news and probably by the boys at school.
I wrote this play in 2016 before the inaugural AFLW season. The excitement and anticipation in the lead up to that Friday February 3, 2017 was absolutely palpable. In the moments before the siren blew to sound the start of the first game, I had to keep leaving the room because I couldn’t stop crying.
I consumed all the stories about the real lives of the players and the women who pushed so hard for this comp. You too can watch Heroes on ABC iview with Daisy Pearce, Darcy Vescio, Ellie Blackburn, Sarah Perkins and Sabrina Frederick-Traub. You definitely should. I also watched Australian Story: A League of Their Own with Moana Hope and Susan Alberti and again, I cried my eyes out. The players, telling us their real-life stories, onscreen, streaming directly into our living rooms. Women with a deep part of themselves connected to the game they love who finally get to play on the big stage.
Fierce‘s structure is influenced by film, but it’s most definitely live theatre because it is shaped by what theatre can’t do.
I can’t show you a realistic game at the MCG because that would probably be a movie. Instead I include what I think I can show, what I think will work as live, text-based theatre.
What interests me when I write, and what I care about most in life, is human behaviour under the stress of structurally violent systems that maintain the status quo. Our systems are geared towards inequality, which gives rise to abuse of power, interpersonal violence and fear: our intrinsically political behaviour.
So I give myself one question: What would happen if a woman was good enough to compete against men at the highest level in football? The play is a combination of what’s imaginable and the reality of the culture. And Suzie Flack is the embodiment of what I think that could do to a human body.