Gut wrenching. Breathtaking. Raw.
“This is What Happens to Pretty Girls” hits on all the right points, becoming one of the most respectful and powerful representation of the #metoo movement I have seen to date. It helped localise and humanise the issue, depicting the multifaceted, grey topic that is sexual assault. I was left drained from the emotional journey and found myself holding back tears.
Written by local playwright Ken Kwek, the play revolves around eight characters who get entangled in a web of pain, shame and heartbreak.
The script was brilliantly written, using localised phrases and teachings we are all too familiar with. It was shocking the number of times I forgot I was watching a play; it was as if I was there, a witness to their story. No word, phrase or response felt out of place. At the same time, these were phrases or quotes that were all too familiar in our upbringing and day to day life. They echoed the unintentionally misogynistic beliefs and values we hear every day, that made the #metoo movement a necessity in our society. In the end, everything was jarringly familiar, and unapologetically raw.
The characters felt genuinely human, with every conversation feeling so true that you can’t help but get emotionally invested in their journey. Through those journeys, you get to watch the development of the characters as well. The depth of their personalities and struggles is built up progressively, allowing us to make sense of who they are as people. I could feel them shift and respond to changing circumstances, going from shocked to guilty, even bravado to wreck as the dilemmas evolved over time. The characters felt as real as the people we interact with every day.
In fact, all of the characters did remind me of people I have met at work, at school or even within my own family. I resonated with their struggles, at a level I did not anticipate and still struggle to put to words my feelings about the plots (which we promised to Adrian Pang not to spoil).
The Scenes and Sets
The set was simple yet universal, enabling minimal set changes throughout the 2-hour long play. With the plot being as complex as it was, it was a blessing that transitions were quick, enabling the audience to draw parallels between the different plot lines, building on both the scale and complexity of the stories at hand.
At times, audio played from different directions, showing the positions of characters when out of sight. It allowed for interactions and a sense of continuity that would not be possible otherwise.
The play sets out to depict the greyness of sexual assault/harassment and society’s response to both aggressor and victims. It very clearly shows the social structures and beliefs that have allowed the problem to persist generation after generation. It has gone above and beyond to display the human aspect of the issue at hand, even some aspects we have never considered before.
Though they infused some simple, light-hearted comedy, most of the play was heavy and at times, hard to watch. But it should be. For the topic is exactly that, heavy and hard to face. The ending was appropriate, reminding us that the battle is never truly over. Society has a long road ahead, to improve on an issue that has existed for generations, and we all have a role to play in that change. This play had done an amazing job, shedding light on a human experience many societies shun and try to keep hidden at all costs.
P.S: the show can be quite triggering for those who may have experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault. They do have staff on hand to help, but this play may not be suitable for everyone.
“This is What Happens to Pretty Girls” is currently staging at Drama Centre Theatre until 26 May, 2019 (Tue –Sat 8PM, Sat –Sun 3PM) with tickets from $25-$75.