“I just want to ask... what’s a fuckboy?”
This is just one of many questions posed to the Fringe Wives Club post-show after their debut Edinburgh comedy show, Glittery Clittery. They’re working hard to wake people up, one sequin-studded cabaret song at a time.
The show is the fruit of two years' development by the Australian entertainment power trio of Tessa Waters, clown and comedian extraordinaire; Rowena Hutson, whipsmart comedian and writer; and Victoria Falconer-Pritchard, cabaret wünderkind and musical polymath. All award-winning performers in their own right, the three long-time friends (who sport matching "FWC" tattoos) joined forces professionally in 2016 to tackle the patriarchy.
The result is a high-energy, hilarious and sexually liberating hour of catchy tunes and fun games. It’s a riot, but painfully necessary at a time when people are more confused than ever.
“Two years ago, I was doing a feminist comedy about sexual assualt, as you do,” says Hutson. “Someone had come up to me afterwards and said, ‘I want you to write a show about how I can be a feminist but still dance to songs like Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’!”
This was the pebble that started a landslide. As soon as Hutson started writing, soon to be joined by Waters and Falconer-Pritchard, more and more ideas for songs tumbled out: fake pockets on women’s clothes; fake ally “feminist fuckboys”; genitalia misconceptions; consent.
“We started writing it before all of the stuff with Harvey Weinstein came out, before the #MeToo movement started, before any of that,” explains Falconer-Pritchard. When it did, the scandal and consequent backlash confirmed they “weren’t the only ones using whatever we had to bring this stuff to light, and share stories.”
But, as Waters explains, they wanted Glittery Clittery to be an antidote to the cliché of the “angry feminist”, and a demonstration of a more inclusive type of feminism.
“We obviously pay respect to those that have come before us,” she says. “But as entertainers, as makers, our weapons are comedy, music and dance, because that’s where we come from. It’s our feminism. Feminism is now intersectional – there are so many different voices: it’s not just white, it’s not just straight, it’s not just cis, it’s not just women.”
It’s a feminism that “can help people to break down their own barriers, even if they didn’t realise they had them in the first place,” adds Falconer-Pritchard. “You don’t have to be an angry one. You can be a party one. If you want.”
“If we have to keep fighting the patriarchy,” says Waters, “let’s fucking do it in sequins and with a glass of champagne in our hands!”
If the mission is to change people’s perspectives, there is a risk at arts festivals—famously liberal environments—that they’re just preaching to the converted. But even at the Fringe, people sometimes mistake Glittery Clittery for a "titty show" and, little by little, are walking away galvanised.
If anything, that’s their target audience. “Our view is that everybody’s gotta be in the room – it’s about equality,” says Waters. “Men can be empowered by feminism.”
There’s talk of taking the show on regional tours, particularly to high schools. They know they’d be able to say things to the kids their teachers can’t. And it’s becoming critical, if the responses of some 18-year-old girls the Wives had up on stage recently to discuss female gentialia is anything to go by: “None of them knew the names for any of the bits!” says Falconer.
“That generation is actually the most misinformed at the moment,” Waters explains. “When we were doing the research, we found that the age group who gets labioplasty the most is 17-24 year olds.”
The stakes are higher than just sexual understanding. In the wake of what happened to Eurydice Dixon, a young Melbourne comic raped and murdered walking home after a gig in June this year, the trio express continued bafflement at the deafening public silence around similar cases. Violence against women and queer communities is still a serious problem, but given short shrift in the media despite the tragic statistics (on average, one woman per week in Australia is murdered by their current or former partner).
The Fringe can feel like something of an echo chamber for right-on views, but it can help the Wives reach those that live outside the liberal bubble nonetheless. “The more visible we are, the more they have an in,” says Waters. “Festivals are a marketplace and they’re an amplifier.”
On the future of the Wives, Waters says, “It’s just gonna be this thing that always evolves.” As long as there is a fight to fight, there will—unfortunately—always be new material to write, and new allies to recruit.