With the #MeToo movement having gained significant momentum over the last few years, and with Australia currently experiencing its own version in Parliament, the inclusion of Socially [un]acceptable in the 2021 Adelaide Fringe is highly apt. Written and performed by Laura Desmond and presented by Big Mood, Socially [un]acceptable is an autobiographical monologue about Desmond’s personal experience with sexual assault.

Filmed at The Mill in September 2020, the sixty-minute performance was streamed into homes on Tuesday 23 February 2021, in the ultimate Covid safe fashion. This was both convenient and disappointing. Convenient for discernible reasons. Disappointing only because the performance and subject matter, in general, warranted an open discussion amongst peers. After all, Desmond’s intent was to provoke the unacceptable into becoming acceptable.

For an hour, Desmond presented five vignettes that discussed her personal sexual assaults. Note the plural. We are shown how those we know are just as likely to be perpetrators of sexual assault as strangers. We are shown the impact of self-blame, of regret, of “what if”. We are shown what can happen when saying “no” is not enough. Having performed Socially [un]acceptable for many years, Desmond was near flawless with her delivery. In fact, the entire production, including the simplistic set, assisted in focussing the attention on her and her message. Every word, every action was deliberate. From the song choices between scenes to her use of silence, everything was meticulously planned. Nonetheless, the flow was balanced and Desmond highly engaging.

Desmond tackled a difficult subject with poignant candour. She was raw and real. It was difficult listening to her personal account of sexual assault; it was intense; it was emotional; it was uncomfortable. However, it was also insightful, encouraging, and hopeful. It is this hopefulness that should be the take-home message.

Socially [un]acceptable is an important narrative in modern-day society. Whilst it may not be everyone’s cup of tea this Fringe season, what it encourages will hopefully become socially acceptable sooner rather than later.

Fringe Review By Anita Kertes

For show info and tickets for Socially [un]acceptable and watch from home head to FringeTix

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