The life, career and political landscape that led Australia’s first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard to make her ‘misogyny speech’ will be examined and brought to life by Justine Clarke (Muriel’s Wedding: The Musical) in ‘Julia’.
Written by celebrated Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith (Switzerland) and directed by Helpmann Award-winner and former STC Resident Director Sarah Goodes (The Children), Julia is an STC commission and co-production with the Canberra Theatre Centre.
Murray-Smith says Julia is not a biography, nor a political analysis of Julia Gillard’s leadership, but an “interrogation of politics, power and personal morality” that combines excerpts from Gillard’s speech with Murray-Smith’s own dramatic imagination.
“I want the play to be about more than one woman – an exploration into how a life in public service negotiates the sometimes unwelcome insistence of personal ideology and compromise, moral questioning, self-doubt and the inevitable awareness of what is lost in that negotiation,” Murray-Smith says.
Murray-Smith says Gillard’s 2012 ‘misogyny speech’ was “an immaculately measured eruption fuelled by frustration, humiliation, injustice and time” that provided her with a plethora of important themes to explore.
“As a dramatist, I was in awe of Gillard’s command of drama in her speech,” Murray-Smith says. “Her use of language, her timing, her swoops in rhetoric from the simple to the sophisticated and her meticulously revealed rage were astonishing.”
Goodes, whose production of Sunday with Melbourne Theatre Company recently garnered critical acclaim, says Julia will not present an impersonation of Julia Gillard, rather an imagined representation of the circumstances that led to the speech.
“When [STC Artistic Director] Kip contacted me about the piece, I felt very strongly that we shouldn’t focus on impersonating Julia in a traditional way,” Goodes says.
“Julia Gillard was impersonated, ridiculed and made fun of for the entirety of her time as Prime Minister, so that is the last thing we wanted to do. Jo has written such a fascinating psychological imagining of Julia’s internal journey towards the speech that it offered up the opportunity to explore the form of a portrait of person in the theatre. And with Justine Clarke in the lead – what a dream.”
She says the show will also examine the incredible impact that the ‘misogyny speech’ has had for a whole generation of young people, aided by the presence of an observer in the piece – Jessica Bently.
“It was this incredible moment in time when someone made a speech within a certain set of circumstances and then it just grew and grew and became much bigger than that singular moment in Parliament House – it became a call to arms, an anthem, which resonates in so many different ways even a decade later,” Goodes says.
The creative team who will bring this mix of history and art to life includes designer Renée Mulder (Triple X) and lighting designer Alexander Berlage (RBG: Of Many, One), composer and sound designer Steve Francis (The 7 Stages of Grieving), assistant director Charley Sanders (Triple X), video designer Susie Henderson (Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) and voice coach Jennifer White (RBG: Of Many, One).