Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) Dissolve

A very real depiction of sexual assault
Dissolve succeeds at being entertaining, informative and powerful
by Chris Lane

Playwright Meghan Gardiner hopes to be put out of business by her play’s material becoming irrelevant. Yet that’s unfortunately not the case, as Dissolve’s subject matter, drug-facilitated sexual assault, is just as common as ever.

The play tells the story of a college student, dubbed “Anygirl” in the program, going out for a night on the town that takes a turn for disaster. She wakes up the next day without any recollection of the previous night, to learn that she slept with a man she had repeatedly rejected, despite feeling pretty sure she only had one drink.

The comic moments make Dissolve very entertaining without trivializing any of the subject matter.

She’s accused of getting what she deserved, and “asking for it” by drinking too much and wearing a short skirt, before she learns at the doctor’s office that her story bears all the hallmarks of drug-facilitated sexual assault (the company advises against using the more common term “date rape” because a date implies consent).

The very talented Emmelia Gordon plays all 16 roles in this one-woman show. She brings her own spin to characters ranging from a bouncer to a professor to a tut-tutting neighbour to a ditzy friend. She makes some characters very funny, which is important to a play that could otherwise be preachy and depressing.

The comic moments make Dissolve very entertaining without trivializing any of the subject matter. A few of the caricature-like characters could be toned down somewhat to make the play seem more polished, but the exaggerated characters are certainly funny. Moreover, their ridiculous lines can expose important truths about our culture, such as how the protagonist’s friend says that Anygirl is only upset because she wishes she remembered hooking up. She exemplifies how even many women dismiss other women who are victims of assault, in a culture that largely ignores and underestimates sexual assault.

Gardiner explained in the post-show talk-back that Dissolve is based on her own experience as a victim of sexual assault. She was initially hesitant to tell her story, and her play discusses this shame that victims are left with in a society that too often blames the victim.

Dissolve presents a very real and eye-opening account of a problem that is much too common in our culture. The production will soon be touring high schools and universities to educate young people about the risks and life-shattering consequences of sexual assault, which Gardiner has previously done while performing the lead role. She is leaving the play in very capable hands with Gordon as the performer and Renée Iaci as the director.

The program outlines some troubling statistics about sexual assault:

- 25% of women who contact Vancouver Rape relief for help were drugged by their attacker.

- 60 % of Canadian college males say they would commit sexual assault if they knew they wouldn’t get caught, according to a 1992 analysis in Ontario.
- Only 1 in 10 sexual assaults are ever reported.
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience some form of unwanted sexual contact before they turn 16, as estimated in Canada in 2006.

Dissolve is presented by shameless hussy productions, and can be seen at CBC Studio 700 at 1 p.m and 8 p.m until May 24, before it embarks on a school tour.

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