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Fran and Leni

"I want the audience to live with the action on stage ..."

Punk's not dead, writes director Emma Gough. In fact, we could learn a thing or two from its modes of protest.

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Fran and Leni: Spit sisters

Date: 3 Sep 2019

“The future dream is a shopping scheme … Commerce with no sense of value.” – Johnny Rotten

Weirdos. Androgyny. Pogo dancing. Camera spits. Bunking in squats. Living by not just accepting the grime, but valuing it. Punk has no rules. It’s just accepting the world for what it really is. Clothes are just clothes. Words are just words. It’s up to you to decide what’s important.

London, 1976

Skinheads. Teds. Rastas. Yuppies and cockneys. London, circa 1976, was a hub for the birth of punk. The government sold security and order to the previous generation then found themselves falling short. For the youth of the day, unemployment, poverty and uncertainty is what they inherited and they weren’t happy about it. The punk movement, fighting for change, put up a middle finger to those who told them to stay calm and quieten down.

Music gigs were held wherever they could fit – in factories, strip clubs and school halls. Often free, these ‘concerts’ would usually pack out – so much that traditional dancing became impossible. As a result, “The Pogo” – said to have been invented by The Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious – became the new trend where audience members would jump up and down where they stood to the high energy clashing happening on stage.

Fran and Leni is an inventive tribute to this time and of how punk rock offered a voice of protest for anyone who wanted to be heard.

Synopsis:

Leni reminisces through her autobiography; of a time where every day was a fight to keep her identity, honesty and courage. Her rebellious independence catches the eye of Grade 8 pianist, Fran, at Creighton Comprehensive and a new relationship is formed.

The pair bond over their passion for music and its ability to transport and share new ideas. In 1978 in a London pub, the duo decide to start a band which gives them a voice in a world where they are expected to accept the future their traditionalist father’s deem fit.
Their band The Rips represents girls wanting to be girls and whatever they see that as including.

We follow these girls who are sick of following the rules, as they navigate a testosterone-filled music scene, love, loss and rejection.

In the seedy streets of Soho, the story begins with a tragedy that hides a truth. With it, the strength of the victim is revealed as she defiantly speaks her story in her own words. The story continues with the two “spit sisters” into womanhood as they rekindle the fun and chaos that originally made them life-long friends.

In this production I’ve tried to distil the universal truths of the characters’ experiences while encouraging the sense of freedom and play that encapsulates the punk way of life.

The show purposefully rejects the neat and trim stage stagecraft we might see at the Sydney Opera House in order to remove the formality of theatre that often creates a boundary between the audience and performers.

I want the audience to live with the action on stage, in all it’s spontaneous resourcefulness.

My hope is that the ideas on stage are received as a conversation rather than a play, indicative of the raw and irregular nature of Sadie Hasler’s writing.

Punk flies the flag of antisocial behaviour – which includes anti-sexism, anti-racism, anti-corporation and secularisation.

Perhaps our modern audiences can learn something from embodying this punchy and determined way of protest.

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