Griffin Theatre Company and Malthouse Theatre Company would like to respond to Jane Green’s blog post, endorsed by Scarlett Alliance and Vixen Collective, regarding our companies’ production of Ugly Mugs. Click here to view Jane Green’s blog.
In Peta Brady’s play Ugly Mugs which is playing currently at Griffin, a doctor is conducting an autopsy on the corpse of a woman. He finds in her boot a photocopied newsletter called Ugly Mugs. He proceeds to read information from the newsletter in the course of the play.
The words that he reads are complete fiction. It is not a real copy of an Ugly Mugs issue. Peta Brady has not used anyone’s real stories of violence, abuse or rape in her script.
As an outreach worker for health services and a needle exchange program in Melbourne for many years she agrees that to use real material from a confidential source would be a gross invasion of privacy. The entire play is a fictional work, being inspired by extensive research and observation in the field, intended to highlight the need for the decriminalisation of street work in Victoria.
The play asks questions about where the impulse towards violence comes from. There are six characters in the play. One of them is a street-based sex worker. She is depicted as a strong, smart and funny woman with friends and support networks. She was happy with her life and was not expecting anything bad to happen to her. The playwright’s intention was that she not be a ‘victim’ but that her death be seen as a result of the criminalisation of her profession in Victoria.
The other characters include a teenage boy, a doctor, a mother, a teenage girl and a an angry man. Their stories weave together in a way that highlights how our judgement system is flawed, how women – all women – are often more vulnerable to physical violence than men, and that the transmission of violent behaviour in our society can be generational.
The play is a co-production between Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre and Sydney’s Griffin Theatre Company. It was rehearsed in Melbourne and during rehearsals sex workers came into the room as consultants. Any concerns they had about representation were addressed by the playwright at that time.
In Sydney, Griffin approached and met with representatives of the Scarlet Alliance to discuss the play. At no time did Griffin request an actual copy of Ugly Mugs for publicity. At no point have we used any information from a real issue of Ugly Mugs as Peta Brady made it very clear that information is not to be made public in any way. We understand that it would be a breach of privacy.
We understand that the legal issues faced by street-based sex workers in New South Wales are different from Victoria and have highlighted that in our contact with media, as well as program notes associated with the play. During our meeting with Scarlett Alliance we suggested that if they felt the differences, or localised issues, needed to be further addressed, we would be happy to collaborate by providing a platform through the media, a public forum or online publication.
We know that the depiction of violence can be deeply upsetting, especially for people who have had personal experience of such acts. We believe that this play describes violence not to glamorise it as entertainment, nor to create ‘pity’ for the ‘victims’, but to provoke conversations in our audience about the steps we need to take as a society to unmake traditions or patterns of violent behaviour.