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The idea of a woman in a "man's world" has been explored in many ways – from the boardroom to the medical field, to the arts. Fierce is the latest incarnation of that idea – a depiction of the fictional Susie Flack, the first woman to compete in the AFL. By imagine Susie's story, this is a play that asks the big questions about gender, relationships and Australia's preoccupation with sport.
Fierce comes at an interesting time in Australian sporting culture – with the success of the AFLW, we can see that Australia is keen for greater gender diversity in sports. But that doesn't mean that these athletes are getting equal treatment (look at Katie Brennan's suspension from the AFLW Grand Final). Fierce looks at these issues through Susie's experience, as a competitive, driven sports star who refuses to back down from what she wants. In this male-dominated culture, we cringe as Susie is subjected to the kind of locker-room banter that has become so synonymous with "boys being boys" – what happens when a woman tries to infiltrate those spaces? What happens when her coach tries to steer Susie in a direction that she doesn't agree with? Does a female sports star have a responsibility to represent her whole gender? Susie has to navigate the media, her friendships and the club room, and we as an audience can see that Susie's place in this world may never be assured.
Featuring an ensemble cast, the play looks not only at the game itself, but also the baggage that comes with the people who dedicate their lives to it. A standout is Syd Brisbane's performance as both coach Corey Anderson and Susie's father Ray – seamlessly transitioning between the two most supportive people in Susie's life, we see the tensions arising in each of these relationships, which is heartbreaking at times. The script has sense of pace and energy, befitting to the subject matter, and is supported by Yvette Turnbull's simple set design, which allows the stage to transform easily from living rooms to footy fields. For those unfamiliar with AFL and its politics, some parts of the Fierce may be a little difficult to follow, but the play's focus on relationships and gender dynamics allows it to resonate beyond just sporting codes.
In a country that values its unique sporting culture so much, Fierce asks us to look at what that might mean – in a sport that rewards those who are the biggest, fastest and strongest on field, what could that say about our values in general?