the month that the world celebrates International Women’s Day, but also stops
to reflect on the intractable issues that most affect them. Handle It
brings some of the most pressing matters affecting young women to centre stage
through a fearless one-woman show.
multitude of complex characters that share a connecting storyline, Laura
Jackson explores the themes of sexual violence, the misuse and abuse of social
media and the damaging social effects of hard-core porn – boldly going where
few dare to go.
It plays sleuth
to the mystery of fictional teenager Kelsey Armitage, whose night out on the
town results in a tragic cascade of events. Compromising pictures of her begin
to surface on the internet, while it also becomes clear a sexual assault has
taken place – though it’s becoming increasingly unclear if the two are linked.
love about this play is that it deftly uses every opportunity possible to
inject a meaningful conversation about the issues at hand. Via incredibly
illuminating monologues, Jackson gives voice to the traumas women experience
every day and confronts the prevailing attitudes that perpetuate them.
precise timing of the content on the projection screen backdrop (by Brandon
Wong) is also crucial to the production. It acts as a giant laptop,
exemplifying in ruinous detail the process of Kelsey’s photos ‘going viral’
when they fall into the wrong hands, but also the public conversations taking
place around the incident.
is a magnetic performer and a masterful chameleon, both skillfully crafting and
representing a diverse and compelling cast of personalities. There is a
staggering amount of depth to each character, and it is quite obvious that a
great deal of care went into ensuring their authenticity.
It is a
provocative, no holds barred commentary that deconstructs some of the more
troubling developments to emerge from our digital age, while using just enough
humour to take the edge of the intensity. It’s a fulfilling experience that
gives you plenty to consider, without dictating any particular conclusion. For
me, this is theatre at its best.
Theatre Review: Handle It, Lip Magazine.
16 March 2015
revealing photos uploaded onto social media without consent is a fear of many
women and a nightmarish reality for more than you would imagine. This is the
premise for Handle It, a one-woman play that showed at The
Street Theatre from March 13-16. Kelsey, a ‘naïve’ first
year university student wakes up after a big night out to find that naked
images have spread like wildfire across the internet after being uploaded on
Facebook without her consent. The story is further complicated when it is
revealed early on that Kelsey has also been sexually assaulted and, not
surprisingly, a torrent of vicious abuse and victim blaming by men on the
internet and public commentators is unleashed.
performed by Laura Jackson, Handle It is a very topical play that asks
important questions: are women safe online? Why are we deemed responsible when
our sexuality and bodies are exploited and ‘shared’ without our consent? Why do
people behave so badly on the internet? And most importantly: if it happened to
us, could we ‘handle it’? Should we have to?
As a play
designed to provoke thoughts and spark conversation, Handle It is very
effective and Jackson’s passion and commitment to making the internet a safer
space for women is to be celebrated. This commitment extended to a short Q+A
with the audience after the production ended, which was both enlightening and
re-affirming: people care about this issue, and they want to help. Jackson
is fantastic in a multitude of different characters and showcases her
confidence and versatility as a performer.
It’s set was
simple yet effective, with particularly good use of projections, which enabled
the depiction of online activity, and also very cleverly introduced two
recurring characters who’s role played out completely ‘online’. I also
particularly liked Jackson’s deliberate choice to tell the story from
everyone’s point of view but the victims, which not only mirrored the way these
cases are dealt with in reality, but forced this fact squarely into the
audience’s consciousness, forcing us to think hard about what we would have
It is a production
that needs to be taken everywhere, and shown to everyone. As one audience
member said at the end, it is particularly needed in schools, youth centre’s
and anywhere else young people will see it. Handle It is the best thing I have
seen so far this year and the rave reviews Jackson has been receiving are well
Handle It is Absorbing and Disturbing.
Canberra Times. March 16, 2015.
Handle It is an unsettling one-woman piece
that looks hard at the downside of the internet. Pictures of university student
Kelsey Armitage appear on Facebook without her consent, after a night that
involves drugs and drink and sexual assault. The pictures multiply and it is a
battle to try to have them removed.
series of short scenes Handle It examines what happens to Kelsey and the
unsettling ways in which social media can alter social discourse and
relationships. The social media plays out largely on an overhead screen while
Jackson uses a range of characters to look at the event from differing points
of view. The audience looks at the conversations developing online on that
screen, giving the performer a chance to change for the next character.
Some of them are there as commentators. Some of them have a direct involvement
in what happened to Kelsey. There's the unpleasant uncaring boyfriend, the
Q&A sexologist panelist who flamboyantly supports the internet's place
in sexuality, the policewoman who is trying to establish what happened to
Kelsey, a somewhat disorganised lawyer, Kelsey's deeply concerned older sister
and Kelsey herself, traumatised by events. There's also a younger stepsister
who has a troubling story to tell.
varies the playing and carries off the characters well. The vignettes stay short and
intense enough to make some powerful points about sexual politics and the way
the internet allows a sordid flourishing. Seeing some of the conversations play
out in real time on the screen reminds, however, that there is also potential
on line for proper and necessary discussion of the issues.
of didacticism is muted by the chilling exploration of a
dramatic twist involving someone who sees protecting a perpetrator as the only
way of surviving dire family circumstances.
director Janys Hayes, Jackson has certainly created a piece that can both
inform and stimulate discussion about the uses to which social media can be put
and the responsibilities that need to apply. That would include, as was the
case on opening night, some post-show discussion. It's absorbing and disturbing
stuff in both writing and performance and it might have been good to see a
longer season with a range of audiences.
Handle it – Street Theatre March 13-15, 2015. Canberra Critics Circle.
is a gutsy and engaging piece of theatre that sets out to tell the story of a
young woman whose life is turned upside down when compromising pictures of her
are posted on Facebook. The subject matter is sensitive and topical and
the show provokes thought and conversation. The story unfolds as a
series of monologues delivered by one performer as seven different characters;
the last to appear is the victim herself.
is a brave and committed performer who identifies as a feminist.
During Jackson's lightning quick changes between characters, social media feeds
were projected on stage. The projections allowed us to eavesdrop on
personal messages and newsfeeds of peripheral characters, and to watch the
all-too-believable viral spread of the compromising photos.
is a young writer and performer with passion, conviction and skill. The
production was of a high quality in design and execution. I look forward to seeing more of Jackson's
work as she refines her craft.
"Handle It" Review 22nd March 2015
For many of us we’ve now had about twenty
years of internet experience. The changes it has made to our daily lives have
been extraordinary through the wealth of information instantly available when
we want it, on-line purchasing and the ease of communication with friends and
family through email, Skype and social networking programs like Facebook. But
there’s a darker side to social networking which is chillingly explored in
Laura Jackson’s one woman play, ‘Handle It’.
The play details the experience of a young
woman at university when compromising pictures of her appear on Facebook. We
also see the impact on other people as judgements are made and actions are
taken. It’s confronting and thought-provoking and it’s also good theatre.
Writer and performer, Laura Jackson, has
produced a strong script with some good characters and excellent links between
scenes with computer projections that progress the story. She also performs all
seven characters in the show, six of whom are women and one is male. Characters were
finely written and played extremely well. Director, Janys Hayes, has staged the
show simply on a bare stage with minimal props and furniture. Each character
has their own acting space which gives good visual variation as the play
progresses. The computer images have been well-designed to clearly demonstrate
how easily you can lose control of a situation when using programs like
Facebook. Good lighting and sound complements the setting and action.
Anyone assuming they’ll just see a biased,
strongly feminist view in this work will be surprised to find that some of the
female characters are unsympathetic and unhelpful, making judgments that are
hurtful and ignorant as well as just plain dangerous. What appears to be a
straight forward case of abuse using Facebook turns into an ever-deepening
mystery that is quite absorbing. It raises some pretty uncomfortable issues
about human nature as well as about a technology moving too fast for most of us
to keep up with.
Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7
‘Dress Circle’ showbiz program with Bill Stephens on Sunday 22 March 2015 from
"Handle It". Bakehouse
Theatre. The Clothes Line. February 18
Laura Jackson has done a good job of
writing and presenting a solo performance with the apparent primary intention
of focusing on the role of social media in the lives of Generation Y. Facebook
in particular, for good or ill, serves up a running commentary on people’s
lives, and has the power to destroy their reputations. Screening a Facebook
newsfeed on the back wall of the stage is a clever device that allows the
audience to view the commentary on some promiscuous images of a one night stand
that have gone viral, while affording Jackson time for costume changes. She
plays six different characters. Her portrayal of the male revelling in the
glory of his one night stand the following day is well, er – very male! She has
just the right amount of cocky swagger! Her most convincing performance was of
the 16-year-old girl who goes to the police to tell the darker truth about what
really happened on the night of the one night stand. Everyone knows these days
how damaging Facebook can be, but Handle It cleverly demonstrates that while
Facebook can be a problem in people’s lives where your every fault becomes fodder
for an ongoing conversation among your peers, it is often things much closer to
home that having nothing to do with social media that present greater dangers.
Acting out the parts of six characters is a challenging task for any performer,
and some of these characters will get better as Jackson has more time to make
them more defined and feel more comfortable with them, but the basic premise of
this play is an intriguing one, with a story worth the telling.
Handle It Adelaide Fringe Review, The Advertiser. Feb 17.
The perils of social media, beginning with
an apparent revenge posting of explicit photographs, underpin Sydney actor
Laura Jackson’s insightful tale about a young woman’s tragic experience.
The seven widely divergent characters that
appear in a dense 60 minutes are a reminder of just how deep the impact of
internet trolling, in all its horrible variety, can be. Scene changes are
well-covered with video footage showing the social media exchanges.
An ingenious twist is carefully timed and
drew a couple of gasps from a pin-drop silent audience. Tightly directed by
Janys Hayes, Handle It is well-paced.
"Handle It @ The Imperial"
Sydney Arts Guide, Dec 12th 2014
It’s not often that I covet wealth but
tonight I wish I had a secret stash . I attended a fundraising night for UN
Women. 50% of the takings are going to Beijing +20 which aspires to a world
with gender equality. It would be great to have a bit extra to give them. Also,
as part of the night, I encountered a writer and performer who rose above her
surroundings to present a theatre piece of power and relevance. The sort of
artist who could also do with some financial support.
The evening was introduced by Brooke
Clark, one of the organizers, who spoke about gender stereotypes in her
non-urban childhood environment. Her choices were hairdresser or beauty
technician. Her eventual choice was to move to a more inclusive environment in
the city. Next was theatre director and playwright, Augusta Supple, who
discussed social media’s way of rushing people to judgement. “I like this.” And
how young women can be validated quickly for posting gender stereotypical
pictures, leaving them with no mechanism to understand feeling shit.
The final speaker was the always
mesmerising Tracey Spicer. As a junior reporter she was told it straight … you
won’t succeed as a TV journalist because viewers think blondes are dumb. Later
told to stick her tits out more and she was too shocked to speak back. She now
speaks out loudly and clearly on social justice, women ’s rights, and equal
opportunity. Ms Spicer graphically explored the link between incidences of
everyday oppression with the cultural and institutionalised harassment in some
non-Western societies. “If you attend an event like this, everybody in the room
knows what I am talking about”.
The piece has a sexual assault at its heart
and we meet the alleged perpetrator right at the beginning. On his phone to a
mate while playing video games, James is bragging about last night with a girl
called Kelsey. She posed for some topless shots and his other mate got his
phone and uploaded them to social media. Here begins the loss of privacy and
victim blaming which the play explores. In the next scenes Jackson shows how
Kelsey’s sister, a prosecutor and a female police officer and a sexologist
The conceit of the work is clever. Having
video between the scenes is a neat way of providing time for a more complete
costume and hair change than most single performer shows allow. The graphics
move the story along by showing the posts and tweets of the on stage events and
the reaction of characters who we don’t meet in person. The characters on stage
are always in conversation with an invisible other and that is a very difficult
acting challenge. Jackson’s acting is very good and we get them. Her writing is
also very good and we understand all the people we meet.
Where text and performance come
together is in the penultimate scene. The character is Jane Draper and she is
seated on a chair on the apron of the stage in the blinding white spot. The
story comes to head and the audience no longer hears the cacophony around.
Belief, presence and raw emotion are right there and it’s hard to watch. Harder
to pull away. Jackson has risen above the surroundings.
The show was a sell out during the
Sydney Fringe and will be travelling to several other cities next year. In its
current form it’s a terrific show but the potential is there for it to be more.
With a bit more cash to invest in polish, not veneer just some neatening, this
show could speak to audiences who need to encounter these themes in this
An investment in good quality video
projection to showcase the excellent graphics designed by Brandon Wong; more
time with director, Janys Hayes in developing the persona of the sister and a
bit more Dramaturgical intervention by Catherine Fargher in the prosecutor
scene would perfect this passionate and relevant work.
"Handle It - Sydney Fringe Reviewer, 2014
The centrality of social media to young
people’s social lives is a hot topic at the moment, particularly the dangers of
“sexting” among adolescents. In Handle It, these issues are explored as they
play out in the lives of seven characters (all portrayed by self-proclaimed
feminist actor and playwright Laura Jackson). This work clearly aims to provide
a starting point for discussion about such serious issues, and this is achieved
while also giving us some lighthearted comic relief.
Against a sinister backdrop of social media
projections and through a series of revealing monologues, we are introduced to
each of the characters. Eighteen year old university student Kelsey becomes
caught up in a scandal where some suggestive pictures of hers have ended up
online and “gone viral”. Not only that, but she has apparently been the victim
of a physical and sexual assault. With Kelsey reluctant to talk, the people
around her are left in the aftermath piecing together what might have happened.
Her older sister Alexa is already laying blame against the man she knows is
responsible, but she never stopped to consider that she could be wrong. Her
alleged attacker James is determined to protect his own reputation. Her younger
stepsister Jane is hiding a terrible secret.
The policewoman assigned to Kelsey’s case
is trying to be sympathetic, but she’s frustrated. Add a ditzy lawyer and a
“pro-internet sexologist” who doesn’t see a problem with victim blaming into
the mix, and...well, everyone has an opinion on Kelsey’s situation. Each of
these is brought to life with tremendous nuance and flair.
All the while, the online world spirals out
Interestingly, although Kelsey is the
protagonist of the show, she is absent from most of it. I couldn’t help but
wonder whether this was a device to demonstrate how depersonalized these events
have made her, she is a construct of the stories surrounding her. If this was
the intention, then it was very effective.
Brilliantly written and acted, this show is
a thought-provoking and entertaining examination of dominant discourses about
the internet, violence against women and contemporary society itself.
"Handle It" - a Review
Louise McIntosh 2014
In an age where social media is a dominant
force in society, ‘Handle It’ is an important play which encourages its
audience to engage in a necessary conversation. Laura Jackson has written
a stunning piece of theatre that is both thought provoking and effortlessly
‘Handle It’ is about a series of events
that unfold involving the main character, Kelsey Armitage. Compromising
pictures of Kelsey appear online and this sparks a discussion among the other
characters in the play. The audience soon realises that the pictures are not
the only concern as more sinister events are unravelled. As the audience begins
to piece together what may or may not have happened, they are concurrently
shown how the images and discussion online begin to escalate. It is an
effective reminder of the social media commentary that is often so present in
our lives. Although a lot of the subject matter is indeed very serious, Ms
Jackson has managed to incorporate a lot of light and shade into the show.
There are moments of genuine humour interspersed throughout the play that make
it a very well rounded and enjoyable piece of theatre.
The play is unusual in that the main
character is largely absent from the stage. Instead, her story is revealed
through the other six characters who present their perspective of the events
through their monologues. Ms Jackson plays each of these six characters and
gives a seamless and remarkable performance. Each character is very different
and all have their own distinct agendas. Ms Jackson manages to convey a very
convincing portrayal of each one. She has clearly given a lot of thought as to
how the different characters would sound, think and move. She even manages to
very successfully play a male character in the opening scene. The performance
delivered by the young playwright reveals a certain wisdom and insightful
maturity well beyond her years.
The play highlights the fact that the words
that we choose in our daily lives are important and ultimately reveal our
attitudes to a variety of issues. It is a play that will undoubtedly get you
thinking. It sparks conversations that we all need to have today about social
media, relationships between men and women, assault, victim blaming and
feminism to name a few. Many audience members who have seen the play in its
previous seasons have commented that they think it should be compulsory viewing
for everyone, young and old, men and women, and I wholeheartedly agree. These
are the sorts of topics that we need to start discussing in high schools,
universities and with our friends and family.
So take a night off from watching Netflix
and step out and engage with a drama that is both compelling and important. It
is a riveting piece of theatre that you cannot afford to miss.
"Handle It" - A Review, 2011
Not for the faint of heart, Handle
It is an avant-garde reflection on the sexual health of generation
This bold monologue mixes modern movements
for gender equality with conservative concerns about sex and lifestyle,
achieving that rare feat of being both entertaining and
The script is well researched to say the
least. It is refreshing to see a piece of theatre treat these sensitive themes
with realism, thoughtfulness and maturity.
Most astonishingly, all seven characters in
the play are performed by the one brilliant actor, Laura Jackson, with little
overlap and entire conviction.
I highly recommend this performance
for any intellectual, psychologist, drama lover, sociologist, sex
expert, aspiring writer, dramaturgy student or theatre critic.