Fringe review: The Culture

Female-led venture Powersuit Productions takes a swing at a raft of weighty issues in this fast-paced and feisty story about the power of friendship when love turns toxic. ★★★★ ½

Mar 08, 2023, updated Mar 08, 2023
Adelaide Fringe play 'The Culture' tackles serious issues with warm-hearted humour. Photo: Aden Meser Photography / Supplied

Adelaide Fringe play 'The Culture' tackles serious issues with warm-hearted humour. Photo: Aden Meser Photography / Supplied

Heartfelt and swift-paced, The Culture is a deftly crafted two-hander exploring the pitfalls of searching for love in the modern world.

Katie (Laura Jackson) and Will (Mina Asfour) are best friends who have been inseparable since high school. Now, as young adults finding their feet in Sydney, they still share everything – from their apartment, to hosting a podcast, to the search for love. As a straight white woman and an LBGTQI+ man, they may have different perspectives on life, but they share a bond that seems unbreakable – until one of them falls in love.

Mina Asfour and Laura Jackson as Will and Katie in The Culture. Photo: Aden Meser Photography

From the intimacy of Will and Katie’s lounge room, we are swiftly pulled into the drama of their lives – their snappy couch banter naturally spinning into content for their podcast, “Don’t Even Get Me Started”.  Katie is a feminist, and while her work at a marketing company may have her designing a campaign for a new pair of Spanx, her ideals mean she’s brimming with ideas about how to put an empowering gloss on shapewear. She even goes to her work’s Halloween party dressed as a vulva.

But when Katie begins dating a new man, Will is shocked to witness how quickly his best friend is losing her feisty individuality in the relationship.

Will is not having an easy time in his quest for love, either. He’s using a dating app, and while the relationship is progressing online, converting texts into in a real-life connection is proving problematic as it becomes clear that the other party is still in the closet.

With both swept up in their private struggles, their friendship is tested for the first time. Attempting to keep their podcast alive, the pair begin to post separately. But when one of Katie’s posts captures something deeply disturbing, it becomes clear how toxic her relationship has become.

With Bethany Caputo and Carly Fisher’s hands at the helm, the swift pace of The Culture doesn’t feel rushed, allowing Jackson and Asfour to work their magic as they wing this tragi-comedy through its single act. The pair are magnetic, their chemistry a delight to watch.

Although this skilfully crafted play was initially written in 2014, the topics it touches on are sadly just as dire today. Domestic violence, homophobia, disordered eating – writer and co-star Laura Jackson has updated the political references and social media technology, but the statistics are not improving. Which makes The Culture an ideal fit for this female-led theatre company, whose objective is to shed light on women’s experiences in Australia. The play is written, directed, designed and managed by women, with actor Mina Asfour and graphic designer Brandon Wong the only non-female creatives in the impressive production.

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Tackling serious issues with warm-hearted humour, The Culture handles the complexities of domestic violence with a strong, compassionate hand while shining a light on our culture which, in upholding the structures that disempower vast sections of our community, allows family violence to continue to thrive.

The Culture is playing at Holden Street Theatres until March 16

Read more 2023 Adelaide Fringe stories and reviews on InReview here.

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