“One woman at the end (of the show) was waiting to the side of the theatre. I’d no idea who she was and she was looking at me. I walked over to her and she asked to give me a hug. She was crying. We had this moment together. She said ‘thank you’ and left.”
If there was ever any doubt in the minds of Jill Raymond and her all-female Hysteria cast whether last year’s thought-provoking, #MeToo-inspired show was resonating, the audience feedback was all they needed to hear.
The fact that it won two critic awards at last year’s Vancouver Fringe should be enough to temper the self-deprecation in even the most modest of writers and actors.
But it was also the reaching out post-show from many male members of the audience that convinced Richmond-based Raymond to hit the stage again with a re-worked and re-cast version of Hysteria, being billed once more to be brutally honest but laced with a double dose of comedy.
“That’s why we do these things. That’s when we realize we are doing something right,” said Raymond, the show’s producer/co-writer/actor, of the audience reaction last year.
“We got lots of emails and messages from people, with one saying that she got assaulted and never told anyone about it, until after the show.
“Another one said she came to the show on a date and afterwards, she got into a huge row with the guy about the show, because she could relate to all the characters. There’s that defensiveness that some men get as soon as they hear the word ‘MeToo.’
“She said it was so interesting because she may have gone on dating this guy for a long time, not realizing there were underlying issues.”
It is, however, “important for men to come see the show,” added Raymond, who’s in the midst of show rehearsals at her artist’s studio/apartment in Richmond’s Capstan district.
“It’s not an attack on men. All of the cast have lovely men in their lives. It’s more an examination of how society has put us in brackets and made it horrible for everyone. The expectations put on men are also horrible. So how do we get on that and start making changes?
“I spoke to one male after a show who had two daughters and it really re-framed for him what it was like for them to be female.”
Although Raymond is honest enough to note that the new Hysteria, much like its original, is not going to be an easy watch for the male contingent in the audience.
“First of all, it’s an entertaining show. You are going to laugh, but I’m not going to lie, (the men will) probably feel a little bit uncomfortable.
“But it might just help open some of those questions that you might have, but not felt able to ask, or see the day to day of what we experience. It’s absolutely not 90 minutes of men-hating. It’s a show for everyone.
“It’s darkly humorous, but the vignettes are there for the audience to take a pause. There is more comedy. You can’t do something as serious as this without the comedy, that’s important. And no one likes to be lectured to about the MeToo movement, women’s rights issues and rape culture.
“The nice thing about art is that you can sneak into people’s minds in a different way.”
This year’s Hysteria – running at the Havana Theatre in Vancouver – was due to go just four shows, Sept. 18-21. But with interest apparently building fast, they’ve just added more dates, Sept. 24-28, with all performances at 8 p.m.
Raymond added that they decided not to name the show Hysteria 2.0, as they didn’t want people to think they had to have seen the original to fully appreciate the 2019 reincarnation.
“We think that Hysteria is such a good strong name and people will know it’s different when they see the press photos,” she explained.
“And if they look at the cast, they will realize it’s a redeveloped version. The main structure of the script is the same, however, it’s longer and we drop in little vignettes in the main action.
“The first one was developed for the fringe, lots of audience participation…this time it’s towards a more traditional theatre style.”
Asked why she felt it necessary to revisit the show’s narrative that rode in the wake of last year’s #MeToo movement, Raymond argued that the need to challenge the accepted norms in society is “more important now than ever before.”
“We did it last year when the MeToo stuff was bubbling to the surface. But all of this is still happening, it’s just gone quiet. That doesn’t mean the fight is over.
“There was uproar and outrage but then things calmed down. Have things really changed? No.”
Tickets for Hysteria – which promises to “explores female sexuality, the socio-political expectations of women and how our divisive post-#metoo society continues to challenge and confront” are available online here or by calling 604-253-9119.