The Female Role Model Project

The Female Role Model Project is just that, a project. One of the most conceptually interesting shows I have seen at the Fringe, US-based company, Transforma Theatre Inc's new piece about our gendered world is more of a hypothesis than a final product.

A disappointing but conceptually interesting show

Brimming with audience interaction, this show will not let you sit still. Theatre games designed to reveal unconscious bias get the audience up on our feet from the beginning.

Billed as ‘a scientifically enhanced multimedia devised theatre piece’, the selling point of this show is the science. A team of phycologists and neuroscientists have collaborated with the creative team to produce this hybrid of tech and art. Headsets are worn by the cast and members of the audience, as brain waves were projected above us. Beautiful patterns of attention were recorded live but were poorly explained. Indeed, despite the live interpretation of the science from Radha Kumari, a biomedical engineer and PhD student, her monotonous, fast-paced explanation left me clueless. Her description was cryptic, and I honestly have no idea what I was watching apart from some pretty shapes. 

The real problem with The Female Role Model Project is its binary depiction of gender. In an early moment that felt like an add on, Meggan says she sometimes feels like a boy and sometimes like a girl. Notwithstanding occasional virtue signalling, the show ultimately ignores trans issues and propels binary gender roles, with a perspective that surely comes ten years too late. A sexist caricature of Malania Trump goes on to reverse many of the good work the script had done in debunking the dynamics behind female role models.

Despite the show’s flaws, the cast of four put on an energetic, tightly knit and highly enjoyable ensemble performance. Made up of Tjasa Ferme, Gina Simone Pemberton, Sabrina Sng and Meggan Dodd, rarely have I seen such diverse cast of women on a Fringe stage. The show is at its best when it divulges from science and focuses on the personal stories of the women on stage, who had fantastic chemistry and never let the energy drop. Their touching tales of family dynamics can’t fail to move the audience but when the show returns to the science, the tech does nothing other than hinder the beautiful and personal stories that the women reveal.

Ultimately, this was a disappointing but conceptually interesting show. If they do choose to persevere, hopefully, their binary discussion about gender is opened up for the Twenty-First Century.

Reviews by Jane Prinsley

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The Blurb

The Female Role Model Project is an interactive theatrical experience paired with neuroscience celebrating female pioneers. It combines performance and interactive games with live recordings of neural activity from actors and audiences using EEG headsets. 'It’s part performance, part game show, part storytime, and part psychology/sociology lesson packed that definitely won’t leave you bored' (PlaysToSee.com). The project's artists perform as different role models (Marilyn Monroe, Melania Trump, Kim Kardashian) while the electrical activity of their brain is monitored with portable EEG headsets. Brain waves are transformed into an intricate sound and video design.

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