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Safe

"its relevance has grown and continues to grow by the day"

Sotto Theatre Co breathes new life into Todd Haynes' 1995 film about a California housewife who becomes allergic to the world around her.

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Show: Safe
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Safe

Date: 13 Oct 2019

There’s an excellent video on YouTube in which director Todd Haynes and actor Julianne Moore discuss his 1995 film Safe, and its enduring relevance in the 20 years since its release.

Haynes says:

“I think in some ways, all of these themes have only expanded as digital culture has expanded, as technology has expanded, questions about health and illness and susceptibility to viruses — even with the progress made around HIV as one case, we’ve seen — there seem to be many, many others that are continually cropping up that endanger our sense of human corporeal persistence in a modern world.”

Haynes is right. The film, and the sentiments of its central female character, Carol, has not only remained relevant; its relevance has grown and continues to grow by the day in the midst of the technology boom, the climate crisis, and the era of self-help capitalism.

Haynes’ film beautifully melds a wide-ranging number of themes and human fears into a simple, timeless, eerie world where mind and body are synchronised, and society is making the individual sick. And that individual just so happens to be a regular housewife living in 1980s California, Carol.

Carol is an unremarkable, rather timid woman who, with nothing much else to do but buy new furniture for her large, modern house, suddenly falls ill with a mystery condition that may or may not be related to chemical sensitivities and fumes from the urban world around her.

As her health spirals, so does her place in society, and her previously invisible social isolation suddenly becomes painfully exposed. She’s an alien to the norms of the 20th century, so she ventures to the hills of New Mexico to try and find a new normal. Whether she finds that sense of normal is another story.

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Director Sarah Hadley and I enjoy the challenging task of adapting film back to the stage in order to shed new light on aspects of the screenplay.

We love the film Safe, and want to bring that text to the stage so we can pick apart the beautiful, endlessly relevant text that Haynes created almost 25 years ago.

We want new audiences to engage with the text, and original fans of the film to reconnect with it, considering how the passage of time has re-contextualised it.

We want to treat the text with respect, and re-shape it so we can explore the themes that matter to us. Themes like the genre of melodrama in the context of a largely feminist modern-day society; the continuing human obsession with health, wellness and the paradoxical struggle of ‘curing oneself’; our suffering natural environment, and the consequences of the human body’s place in burgeoning urban development; and the alienation of the individual (female) body within a society that rejects it.

All these light and cheery themes await you if you come and see the first stage in our development of Safe. We can’t wait to breathe new theatrical life into this story, showcase some incredible actors (Ella Prince, Jenae O’Connor and Kieran Clancy-Lowe), and put our own spin on a Haynes classic.

Finishing off the Old 505’s FreshWorksFEMME season for 2019 seems like an excellent way to do just that.

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