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Image: Laura Jackson

Review by Bridget Conway

Last night, on a strangely cold and stormy spring evening in Sydney, I made my way from work to a small suburb nestled in the outer ring of the CBD. There, I sat down to Laura Jackson’s one-woman play Handle It, presented as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival. Jackson is an incredibly talented actor and writer and holds a Bachelor of Performance and a Masters of Creative Writing.

The play is all about the hostile world of the Internet and shows us what happens when girls and women venture into the online world. The result is, as you can expect, not pretty. Jackson tells us the story of Kelsey Armitage, a university student who goes out partying one night only to end up the next day beaten, betrayed, and raped. Jackson portrays the people in Kelsey’s life, such as James (the guy she goes home with), Alexa (Kelsey’s older sister), and Jane(Kelsey’s younger step-sister). Jackson also portrays a sexologist, Jasmine Roberts, a Policewoman, Sal Fitzgerald, and a junior lawyer, Lucy Delaney. We follow Kelsey’s story as photos of her doing a strip tease for James go viral online. Kelsey then tries to take James to court, claiming that he raped and abused her.

It’s only at the very end do we encounter Kelsey herself. Kelsey does not speak to us, though, and stands before us hurt and afraid, yet incredibly keen to move on. She posts a Facebook status update, which we see on the projection behind her. She tells us that she’s going out partying because she’s had enough of the cyber bullying. She leaves us, and the curtain closes.

Handle It evokes all sorts of questions – most of which are left unanswered for a good reason. Jackson forces us to think about the role we play in the story presented, and the result is a thought-provoking night well spent at the Sydney Fringe.