Early adventures in feminist theatre

Since my dad passed away I’ve been looking through some of his old photo albums, and found some snaps from the first shows I ever wrote, back in middle school. It’s funny but in hindsight, feminism was kind of a theme even then.

My first play was titled ‘Annie and ET.’ I played ET, of course. It was basically a feminist re-imaging of the movie ET, where ET crashes on earth, but instead of meeting that snivelling snot Elliot, he meets Annie (as in, Little Orphan). Mostly this was because my best friend and ‘creative partner’ was obsessed with the musical and desperate to play the role, but let’s face it, ET would have been better off with Annie than with Elliot.* Annie wouldn’t have let him get kidnapped. Annie got shit done.

The plot was pretty simple: ET crashes to earth; meets Annie; she helps him ‘phone home’ then puts her foot down and demands she take her to see the stars; they have Doctor Who-inspired** adventures travelling in space. Oh, and ET had a robot companion, for some reason (played, fetchingly, by our other friend Samantha, in a jumbo laundry power box painted silver). We even had a real (well, not real real, obviously) space ship, spray painted silver with all manner of buttons and gadgets, that was big enough to fit three small children inside. Except when one of them is dressed like a robot with a giant cardboard box over their head, unfortunately. Fortunately I was smart enough to realise that robots don’t need to breathe and won’t die when exposed to the freezing temperatures of space, so decided to have ET’s robot friend attach to the outside of the spaceship. Poor Samantha!

My rather wonderful school (a perfectly ordinary state school) were hugely encouraging and even gave us class time to perform this masterpiece in front of everyone. I think it went well.

My second play was a feminist re-imaging of Little Bo Peep. I’m not even sure where this one came from. Our thought process was this: Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep. Why? Because sheep rustlers had obviously stolen them. I don’t know, I think I must have been reading too much Famous Five or something. Except our Bo would be a badass. Instead of crying about her lost sheep, she was going to go and get them back. Cue a ‘Luke in the swamp’ training montage as Bo goes off and becomes a ninja. Really. Can you believe they let us perform this in front of an entire school of children? Ninja-Bo returns to confront the head of the sheep rustlers, who was also a pirate because for some reason when I was a kid I believed sheep rustlers were pirates. It all goes a bit slo-mo, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Then the sheep reappear, they’re reunited, and Bo and all the sheep celebrate with a kicky perfectly coordinated song and dance number. It would have been great. It should have been great.

Unfortunately the chorus playing the sheep (and what a perverse thrill it was to get to commandeer the Main Hall and have a load of older kids ‘auditioning’ for us!) got a bit overexcited at being on stage and all hell broke lost. I was furious, and stormed off in a huff, swearing never to direct again…



*Can I rant about ET for a minute? Okay, Elliot, Elliot Elliot. You had one job! Don’t let the government kidnap the alien. One job. Not that ET was a prize. He wrecks Elliot’s life (let’s be real, Elliot was definitely facing about million federal charges) and then sayonaras into the sunset. Oh, and “I’ll be right here”? What the hell is that? Doesn’t that sound like the ultimate douchebag dudebro line? “So, can I see you again? Because we’ve been getting on so well. You said all that stuff about how special I was. And I did all that stuff for you. I hope that’s not going to change now. You’ve got my number, right? I’ll give you my number again. So.. you’ll call me, right? You’ll call me?” “Sweetheart, don’t worry, I’ll be right here in your heart.”
“I’ll be right here” is the kind of thing you say to a girl you’re never going to call right after you give her a STD.

**Or entirely ripped off of.


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