Director’s Note: BABY DOLL

19 Sep 2019

Upon its release in 1956, the film version of BABY DOLL provoked virulent threats from protestors, bans from religious leaders, and flippancy from critics who dismissed it as a lurid tale of a virgin child bride, her sexually frustrated husband, and her smarmy lover. A collaboration between Tennessee Williams and director Elia Kazan, BABY DOLL inspired such outrage that it was condemned from the pulpit of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral by Cardinal Francis Spellman. Re-examining BABY DOLL through a contemporary theatrical lens has allowed us to explore the continually evolving and shifting beliefs regarding a woman’s right to autonomy and control over her sexuality. Together we’ve interrogated the complex and nuanced conversation surrounding Affirmative Consent, the many roles women are forced to “perform” in order to manoeuvre their way through an unbalanced system where the male gaze is omnipresent, and to question the permanence and depth of exciting social changes that have been made slowly but progressively towards righting that imbalance. It feels like a dangerous conversation to be having in 2019 and I have questioned my own privilege as a white, male storyteller in this process. I have faced the conundrum of not wanting to speak on behalf of anyone yet at the same time wishing to engage with the conversation. I hope that this production inspires further interrogation of a system that Williams and Kazan were clearly lampooning back in 1956, but which is still unfortunately pervasive today. BABY DOLL was programmed following a staged reading I directed at Ensemble Theatre whilst a recipient of the Ensemble Theatre Sandra Bates Directors Award. I am very grateful for Ensemble Theatre’s support and for the opportunity to work with such an incredible cast and creative team. It has been a joy.

Shaun Rennie

At Ensemble Theatre 18 Oct – 16 Nov, book here.