MALMSBURY resident and playwright, Sandy Fairthorne's new play Gibbo - backed by Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) - tackles a difficult subject matter with great thought and tenderness.
Ms Fairthorne is a seasoned professional, boasting 26 years of experience writing and directing plays which have been shown across regional Victoria and at La Mama Theatre in Sydney.
"This is the first time I'm actually directing my own work," she said.
"So it's been quite sort of exciting, and also it's scary and challenging."
Gibbo is about a woman returning to the farmhouse where she believes she was drugged and raped 25 years earlier, wanting to make the perpetrator - a farmer - confess to the crime.
"The play came about because, well, I was drug raped in my late 20s," Ms Fairthorne said.
Ms Fairthorne said the assault happened 35 years ago and she only realised what had occurred because she found out she was pregnant a few weeks later.
It was that personal harrowing experience which Ms Fairthorne drew on for her play.
"It's a fly-on-the-wall drama too that sort of inspects the marriage as trust breaks down and brings about a sort of catharsis for all the characters involved," Ms Fairthorne said.
The drama takes the audience on a suspenseful 90-minute journey, exploring the effect that this kind of violent, horrific, crime can have on everyone involved - even decades later.
The playwright and director said she wanted to explore a 'what if' scenario, while at the same time trying to understand the psyche of the person who commits this kind of crime.
"What if somebody comes back into the house of someone who did this, who perpetrated it at a party and confronts them?" Ms Fairthorne said.
"She has only one request to make of this man. But it requires that he admits he committed the offence. Therein lies the challenge.
"It's just a really interesting premise."
CASA Manager Strategy and Development Lee Edmonds said the organisation was supportive of the play because alcohol and other drug facilitated sexual violence was unfortunately very common.
"It's also one of the least reported crimes," Ms Edmonds said.
"And the reason why it's one of the least reported crimes is that people were really confused about what happened.
"Did they drink too much? What was the context? What did they agree to?
"They often can't remember the details of the experience and it's quite blurry."
Ms Edmonds said perpetrators used alcohol and drugs to lower the victim's resistance and get them to oblige and participate in things without their full knowledge or informed consent, which is sexual assault.
She said the beauty of plays like Gibbo was they entertain but also educate and inform, ultimately helping victims of sexual assault.
"If we can have community members out there that have knowledge of this, and when someone discloses [sexual assault] to them, then they can help them," Ms Edmonds said.
Ms Fairthorne said she hopes to get more people talking about this difficult but important subject.
"I know that it still happens a lot, and luckily these days, young women are much more savvy and educated about this, thank God," she said.
"And, very supportive of each other, and help each other.".
Ms Edmonds said there was "changing landscape," in terms of sexual assault and talking about it.
Gibbo includes an all local cast - from the playwright, sound recordist, the cast and crew, to Malmsbury's own composer Krzysztof Derwinski.
Castlemaine actors Kate Stones, Rebecca Barnett, and Stephen Mitchell are also set to star in the drama.
"I've got a really good cast - very talented locals," Ms Fairthorne said.
"They're all actors and directors in their own right."
And while the topic of sexual assault is dark, Ms Fairthorne insisted the play wasn't all gloom and doom, and while it could be triggering to some, it wasn't violent.
"I don't want people to be scared off," she said.
"It's got a good, actually a sort of positive ending for all of the characters in a way."
Gibbo opens at Castlemaine's Phee Broadway Theatre, on Friday, July 29 and will play subsequent shows in Prahran, Bendigo, and Kyneton.
For more information or to buy tickets to Gibbo visit this website.
If you or anyone you know is in need or crisis please call the National Sexual Assault Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732), The After Hours Sexual Assault Crisis Line on 1800 806 292, or Lifeline on 131 114.
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