Deviant Women is the highly entertaining and educational podcast that highlights extraordinary women from history, mythology, fiction and more, and is the brain-child of passionate academics (and nerds) Lauren and Alicia. Last year they brought their amazing podcast to life with their first series of Fringe shows, on French Swashbuckler Julie D’Aubigny and Russian Occultist Madame Blavatsky. This year they’re back, again at The Jade, with the amazing and twisty tale of two of the most fearsome pirates of the golden age: Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
As a long-time fan of the podcast, I was hugely excited to finally see the stage performance, and I was not disappointed. Lauren and Alicia bring all of the charm and enthusiasm of their audio show ten-fold to the stage, with multiple costume-changes, musical numbers, animation, bawdy props, gratuitous sword flailing, and some very energetic dancing. Alternately narrating and acting, they switch between the two characters’ stories while the other flirts with the audience or thrusts their pelvis for emphasis.
While some liberties are taken with the historical details – which should be somewhat obvious with the numerous references to 80s pop culture – the overall effect is a loving and highly engaging re-telling that really brings these historical figures to life, while musing on some socio-political implications along the way. It’s intelligent comedy spliced with pirate-based innuendos.
Lauren and Alicia are natural performers and storytellers, and there were even moments in the more serious and heart-wrenching parts of the tale where these historical figures really came to life, between their totally-accurate accents and genuine chemistry as in-character and real-life friends.
Women and their stories have been sidelined throughout history at least for centuries, but this show, and their podcast, shine an all-important light on these significant figures, in the most engaging way possible. And there’s no better way to learn about Anne Bonny and Mary Read and their spectacularly bare-chested, bloodthirsty achievements than with the high-energy, delightfully sweary and excellently costumed, Deviant Women: Lady Pirates Give No F*cks.
Last year we talked to Alicia Carter and Lauren Butterworth, creators of the podcast Deviant Women in the lead up to their knock-out Fringe debut. One year on, and they’re getting ready to bring Deviant Women to the stage again, this time exploring the lives and legends of the infamous female pirate duo Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
On the opening night of Fringe 2019, Tulpa’s Lisandra Linde caught up with Alicia and Lauren to talk about the experience of bringing Deviant Women to the stage and their upcoming show Pirate Ladies Give No F*cks.
Lauren: Surprisingly well received. I say surprisingly well received as though we were expecting it to be poorly received, but I think it did exceed our expectations.
Alicia: Yeah, definitely. We did two entirely different shows about a week and a half apart. For the first show [Julie D’Aubigny] we were going in blind. We didn’t have any idea what it was going to be like and we were really amazed that within the first five minutes of the show the audience was responding, like, audibly.
Lauren: I remember a moment a few minutes into the show where we could see the front row really well and their faces were just very smiley and there were these big body laughs and I was just like – ‘oh wow, this is going well’.
Alicia: If something bad happened to a character that they liked, the audience would just automatically boo, or something good would happen and they would just automatically cheer. There was actually a moment standing on the stage where I was like, ‘wow, you guys are really enthusiastic’.
Lauren: We fed off their energy and I think they fed off of our energy, so by the end of the night we came off the stage and we were totally on another planet.
Alicia: And then, of course, we were worried about whether or not the second show would live up to the standards of the first show.
Lauren: Especially because we’d had less time to rehearse the second show because we’d been concentrating so much of our efforts on the first show.
Alicia: Also, with the success of the first show, we got some pretty great reviews, a lot of word-of-mouth, so the second show sold out.
Lauren: Because [Blavatsky] was such a different show – well I guess the tone was similar but – the tone of the humour was very similar but the theme of the shows were really opposite, so we weren’t sure if what worked in D’Aubigny would work in Blavatsky. D’Aubigny was so colourful and bright and energetic and quite sexy and tongue-in-cheek, whereas Blavatsky was more spooky.
Alicia: But no, it ended up being just as much of a success as the first show and, again, we got some excellent reviews – five-star reviews – and yeah, really good feedback. I think that when we say surprisingly well, it’s not because we expected them to be a flop but it’s just that they did a lot better than we’d hoped.
You’re back again this year with a show about Anne Bonny and Mary Read called Pirate Ladies Give No F*cks. You’ve talked about both these swashbuckling ladies in your podcast in the past – what was it that made you choose to do a stage show about them?
Lauren: The thing that we learned from the last Fringe was that while we had an amazing time doing two different shows, there’s a reason why theatrical groups tend to do a show multiple times. Not two shows once each. We just wrecked ourselves doing that, so this time we wanted to do a show that had two primary characters. We didn’t just want one of us to be the main figure, and the other one of us to be the side characters like we did in the last shows. We wanted to choose a pair of women. We actually looked at a few different pairs of women from history but, to be honest, and I think that this is saying something, there weren’t that many stories that we came across of female duos. There are a lot of male duos, and every time you did find a female duo they were either just celebrity pairings or they were frenemies. You know, like the Joan Crawford and Betty Davis sort of frenemies. And we just really wanted to tell a story about female friendship as well, because that’s something that I think is really quite underrepresented.
Alicia: If you look up something like ‘best male duos’ there’s so many from history that you can find that were real men. Whereas with women, the majority of the results that we get are of fictional characters like Thelma and Louise. It wasn’t that we couldn’t find other examples, because we did find a few, but the information that was available to us about a lot of these other female duos was very limited. With Anne and Mary, where we’re lucky that we do have so much about their lives, that’s actually really quite uncommon. We loved their story as well, and we are both big fans of pirates. We like the aesthetic of being a pirate, so it didn’t take us long to decide that it was probably going to be a lot of fun and it was also going to be a lot of material that we could use.
Lauren: A lot of their exploits are quite outrageous. Their story is one that could be turned into a really fun romp, you know? It’s also a story that shows the various shades of these women as well. They’re not just pirates who were fighting alongside men on ships. They were best friends, they were potentially lovers, they had romances, they had heartbreak… They were so amazing in so many ways, but they are also full of contradictions and full of things that make people interesting. I think a big part of the Deviant Women project is trying to think of women as being three-dimensional creatures who are full of shades of light and dark – dare I say, human?
Alicia: I think that’s a part of the podcast as well as the stage show. A lot of what we do is celebrating women from history. Sometimes we think of celebrating in terms of uncovering and finding them and knowing that they exist. It doesn’t necessarily mean we’re celebrating them because we’re holding them up as paragons of being amazingly wonderful people. Like, a lot of these women were quite bad people.
Lauren: To me, it’s just about breaking down those myths of femininity, breaking down those dualities and binaries that confine women to being one thing or another.
Alicia: It’s about finding that area where you don’t have to be a wonderful person in order for us to celebrate your existence.
Lauren: And these two women are really good examples of that.
Your shows mix a lot of elements, from sketch comedy to animation and even audience participation. How much work goes into creating a show with this much stuff going on?
Alicia: Actually, we’ve added a new element to this [year’s] show. We’ve branched out into the world of musicals.
Lauren: Song and dance numbers are now making their debut on the Deviant Women stage.
Alicia: We didn’t think we had enough crammed into the shows last year. So this time we thought we’d do a bit of a musical number.
Lauren: We were also really lucky this year to have another couple of artists approach us and want to get involved in the show as well so we’ve got two designers and animators who have come onboard to help us out with some of our visuals and animations this year – Levi George and Lisa Vertudaches – we’ve been able to work with them which has been really fun.
Alicia: They’ve been very generous with their time and they’ve given us some really awesome animations that we’ve thrown into the mix with some of our own crap animations.
Lauren: Of course, we couldn’t not try our hand at animation. A different form this time. So last year we had stop-motion claymation and shadow puppets. There’s a new one in the mix this year.
You obviously do a lot of historical research for every show (and podcast). How do you find the balance between the information you want to share about these women and the more comedic elements of the show?
Lauren: Okay, so this story, as with our two previous stories (D’Aubigny and Blavatsky), had historical facts about them that were verifiable in the historical record, but they were also both surrounded in myth and legend as well. I think it’s that space [between fact and myth] that allows us that creativity and a chance to play and have fun with their stories. We’re very upfront about the fact that A, B, and C is historical fact, and D and E are apocryphal stories. I think we’re both really interested in not simply the historical figures, but we’re interested in storytelling. We’re interested in the ways that stories about women are told, and the way that historical figures become mythologised.
Alicia: When we find gaps in the narrative, or we find interactions with other people that have been merely suggested or hinted at, it’s taking those other characters around them as well and then creating something out of it. So one of them might have a dalliance with a lover or something, and that’s about as much as you get. And that gives you so much freedom to make anything you like out of that lover because there’s nothing in the history books to tell you about them. We kind of create these characters that would have been around them as well.
Lauren: And those characters often become symbols for the feminist undercurrent of the show. Quite often we’re lampooning particular stereotypes. Particularly around things like toxic masculinity or sexual politics.
What’s your favourite part of bringing these shows to life? And what do you look forward to most in doing the show this year?
Alicia: I’m looking forward to it being over so that we can sleep [laughs]. No, my favourite part of the show is bringing to life the visual aspects. I love it when we get stuck into the costuming and the sets. What I like is the idea that you come along to the show and hopefully we can transport you to a different time. I really enjoy putting together those visual cues.
Lauren: I kind just live for that moment on stage. Performing transports you to a totally different dimension, you know? I’m a totally different person on stage than I am in face-to-face conversation. I’m really in love with the Lauren that comes out when she’s on stage. I wish she would come out more in everyday life because she is very confident, she’s very playful and she’s very over-the-top. I really love being her. Having the chance to really lean into the performing and feeding off of the energy of people, kind of getting that sense that you’re sharing an experience with people through this thing that you’re doing. That’s just such an enormous high, and I really love it.
Alicia: That’s why we came back and decided to do it again this year. That’s the thing about live performance in general, isn’t it? That you create something there in the moment that’s very ephemeral but that everyone in the room is sharing. So I think that’s what keeps us going.
Deviant Women will be performing at the Adelaide Fringe on the 20th, 21st and 22nd of February. You can grab your tickets here. You can learn more about Deviant Women and their podcast on their website, or listen on iTunes. You can find them on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram.
Tulpa thanks Deviant Women creators Alicia Carter and Lauren Butterworth for taking the time to speak with us. Interview conducted and transcribed by Lisandra Linde.
When Simon vomited the grief of his father’s death into a plastic bag on the rooftop of a Melbourne hostel, I couldn’t help but consider what a poignant narrative climax it would make. I was standing in fog freckled with security-light orange, hiccupping Smirnoff bile when he moved to the low wall by the edge. Ben ran after him; we were terrified he’d fall or throw himself over. He was trembling and wet-dog snivelling, but he hadn’t been stuck in his end-of-the-world grief all night. Not like he was then.
It was 2008 and we were twenty. Far too young, really, for that kind of grief. The weekend escape had been concocted just days before, the kind of flyaway ‘why not’ you can get away with between university semesters when there’s nothing but long nights in friends’ backyards to fill the space of days. We’d started late in the afternoon with a bottle of vodka and pink and orange slushies from the 7Eleven. We played brain freeze and a game of Presidents and Assholes with Mexican girls who were in town to see the Pope for World Youth Day. It hadn’t been a remarkable evening except that he’d been smiling through most of it. Sitting in the hostel corridor floor, his knees didn’t seem to jut so much from his too-big pants and he had that goofy look like he used to have, back when we’d welt our fingertips from too much Guitar Hero and fall asleep at 4am amongst soda cans and melted M&Ms. So instead of worrying about him, as I had for days, weeks, months, really, I’d been mentally composing a gothic piece set in the Old Gaol just over the road. Flood lights cast shadows on brick beyond the windows and I watched for spectral faces behind the bars — I’d had strange shivers in a cell the day before, one renowned for its paranormal visitations, and there was a story in it, I knew.
When we said goodnight to the Mexicans, I should have expected the hug that began with a moon-smile and ended in his fingers clenching tight to my back, that silent quiver in his bones. That he’d slip through my arms to a bundle on the floor. And that my own heart would break, again, because I couldn’t heal his.
We came up to the roof and he pushed his fingers firmly against me: ‘Fuck off.’
But Ben and I crept up anyway, pressed our ears against the door. We listened to the thud of fold-up chairs, benches scattering against the concrete. The gravelled roar of his yell. That’s when we rushed. We found him standing still, his beanpole silhouette striking against the broad grey of the gaol.
‘I’m gonna be sick.’
Ben ran with a plastic bag pulled from his pockets. The heave of vomit was spectacular. That’s when he stumbled to the low wall by the edge. When I thought he might jump.
The ghosts next door disappeared.
He looked up at us and a shift came over him. Something in his eyes. He peered over the edge, looking down at the wet street: a cat curling around a lamppost, the short white apartment building opposite. He rocked back on his heels and grinned. Then he threw it. The wobbling bag, strangely graceful in its own way, sailed across the street and landed on slanted tiles above a porthole window. The liquid threatened the plastic, then after a tense moment, rested.
A strange stillness passed.
‘Fucking hell,’ said Ben. ‘That was beautiful.’
Simon gripped us, tipped his head back and, throaty with catharsis, he laughed.
It was difficult not to see the narrative potential.
Art by Rhianna Carr
Words by Lauren Butterworth
Lauren Butterworth is a writer, academic and editor with creative work published in a variety of outlets including Meanjin, Verity La, Wet Ink, Midnight Echo and more. She is co-director of The Hearth, a readings event that aims to platform exciting local voices in a space that nurtures creativity, conversation and ideas. She is also a host and producer of the podcast Deviant Women which tells the stories of women who dare to break the rules and subvert the system. During the day, she teaches at Flinders University and is editor at MidnightSun Publishing.
Another year and another Fringe has passed us by. Hundreds of acts, some of which we at Tulpa were lucky enough to go and see. A festival of passionate creatives, wonderful venues, and great celebrations of art – the Fringe is a month in which the arts take over the city. After all of this, the Tulpa team got together to enjoy and share our memories of a remarkable series of arts events.
Reviewing over thirty shows, and going to several more, we at Tulpa were able to enjoy a busy and thrilling few weeks. Recently, in the wash-up from the several weeks of late nights and enjoyable oddities, we decided to discuss what we thought of the famed Mad March.
We nominated our favourite shows of the Fringe. For Taeghan Buggy, it was The Displaced of which ‘the comedic strangeness, attention to space, and skill of the performers was top notch’. For Liam McNally, How to Drink Wine Like a Wanker, a unique performance running a broad and deep range of experiences. Kayla Gaskell recalls her favourite shows as ‘a toss-up between the sexy-circus of Fuego Carnal (which I saw independent of reviewing), the classy cabaret of Anya Anastasia (which will be showcased at the Port Noarlunga Arts Centre in August), and of course, the magical musical theatre production, Little Shop of Horrors.’ Simone Corletto elects The Adelaide Office Live as her own personal favourite show.
The Fringe brings with it a lot of interesting shows that offer unique experiences. Where else would one have the opportunity to stroke would a 17th century man get you to stroke their sword, as was Lisandra Linde’s experience at Deviant Women: Julie d’Aubigny? Or perhaps at The Bacchae, where as Teaghan Buggy recalls, they ‘got all the men to leave the room for the final scene because they “did not have permission to see it”’, to which Taeghan adds, ‘It was so odd because that’s never happened in a play before but it was also a really great moment with the play.’ Simone notes as one of the more remarkable events of the 2018 Adelaide Fringe as when the city got its Seymour Skinner on with North Terrace’s ‘lights installation and basking under the aurora borealis, at this time of year, in this part of the country, located entirely in our museum courtyard’.
A month-long series of remarkable shows and special oddities that very certainly did not disappoint with well over one thousand shows, the Fringe was an event we all got some remarkable experiences from. Shows aplenty, Adelaide utterly transformed into the global arts hub for a city, we looked back on our shared and separate memories with fondness and another eleven months to wait until our city is once again transformed. Taking in a host of comedy, cabaret, theatre, arts installations and other thought-provoking events, the Fringe opened up a wonderful host of local and imported artists to bring their respective stories to Adelaide to share. Where else would you find a velvet-clad Shakespeare, a nun-burning pirate, and The Office come to Adelaide?
Words by Liam McNally with Simone Corletto, Taeghan Buggy, Kayla Gaskell, and Lisandra Linde.
After a triumphant five-star show about the swashbuckling Julie D’Aubigny, Deviant Women returned to the stage with the story of nineteenth century occultist Madame Helena Blavatsky. This time round the pink puffy dresses were replaced with gothic black gowns and the show had an altogether darker feel. This isn’t to say that it was all serious- it wouldn’t be a Deviant Women stage show without laughter, silly hats and flamboyant acting. All the comedic goods were out on display, bringing a whole lot of fun to this tale of spirits and séances.
Using the same artful storytelling characteristic of their regular podcast, along with some spooky shadow poetry and an on-stage séance, hosts Lauren and Alicia brought Helena’s story to life with flair and attention to detail.
Deviant Women always aims to give the audience as much knowledge as entertainment. As academics, Lauren and Alicia always strive to provide rich biographical detail on the women they talk about. Their biographical run-down of Madame Blavatsky’s life was no different.
Since her childhood in Russia, where the auspicious date of her birth connected her deeply with spirits and other otherworldly beings, Helena was destined to lead a life bound with the occult. Helena rebelled against many of the rigidly moralistic ideals of the nineteenth century. She married but denied her husband sex (a big no-no in the Victorian period) and often chose to travel alone.
During her travels she held séances and decried trickery (like the ghosts in bedsheets and stuffed gloves that were mainstays of many parlour séances). Her interest in other religions led her to adopt many aspects of spiritualist practices from around the world, including Buddhist and Hindu traditions. She was the mother of the new-age movement and founder of Theosophy. She was a woman who accomplished a lot during her life (despite smoking to excess, drinking and a penchant for hashish).
The absolute highlight of the night was the on-stage séance. From inviting an audience member to join in the summoning of a ghost (which did yield a stuffed glove which Lauren used to stroke the volunteer’s face while their eyes were closed), to Lauren emerging in a bed sheet and mask to sweep about the crowd offering an ectoplasm covered arm, the séance was filled with the fun and trickery you’d expect from a Victorian era party.
The Jade was the perfect venue for the cosy but slightly spooky feel of the stage, and the dark lighting and sounds of thunder made for the perfect ambience for a story of the occult.
Deviant Women: Madam Blavatsky was a perfect blend of dark and comedic, of the spooky and the playful. It was a night any Victorian lady or gentleman would be proud of.
The life of Julie D’Aubigny – swashbuckling, nun-burning, opera-singing, famously bisexual fencing connoisseur – is extraordinary to say the least and deserves a retelling of equal splendour. I am delighted to write that last night at the Jade, this was achieved with achievement to spare.
Lauren and Alicia, creators of the Deviant Women podcast, seek to uncover and celebrate historical women whose exploits have quite literally stuck it to the man. In a self-coined “multi-modal” experience, which included costumes, live fencing, comic re-enactments, and some delightful claymation, they retold the legend of Julie’s orphan upbringing in 17th century France. With comedic flair and passion, they followed Julie through her numerous duels, her disguises, her singing career, her death warrant, and her impressive list of lovers, both men and women.
Adding visuals to Deviant Women’s usual podcast format enhanced the charm and intelligence that, to their great credit, has always been present in their recorded episodes. With flamboyant colour, video and physical comedy, they traced Julie’s adventures through Paris, Spain, and the Spanish Netherlands, all the way to her grief-ridden fall into obscurity, and her death in her mid-thirties.
As they discussed in an earlier interview with Tulpa, Lauren and Alicia are both academics, and are curious about the ways that historical women subvert and redefine archetypes of femininity and monstrosity. Their comedy is thus underpinned by socio-political commentary, which last night questioned why it is so deviant for a woman to take a female lover, or to display physical strength. Whilst framed by comedy, these concerns are still alarmingly relevant to our contemporary lives, in the aftermath of marriage equality, and in conversations surrounding toxic masculinity.
In short: it was the sort of comedy that gives one delight and then gives one pause, in the best way possible.
The word “delightful” has been used several times throughout this review. This is only because, by the end, it was the only word that fit the experience, and in chatting with other audience members it became clear that the feeling was unanimous. ‘Delightful!’ several of my friends exclaimed, still laughing. ‘That’s exactly the right word!’
Deviant Women’s second and final show, which explores the mysterious Madame Blavatsky and the spookiness of the Victorian seance, will be performed at the Jade on Wednesday, March 14th. You can also find their podcast here.
Words by Jess M. Miller
Tickets available for Deviant Women: Madame Blavatsky here.
After a successful first season of their podcast, Deviant Women creators Alicia Carter and Lauren Butterworth are taking to the stage to bring you the wild and wonderful stories of two historical women– Julie D’Aubigny and Madame Blavatsky. In the lead-up to their first show, Tulpa sat down with Deviant Women to talk podcasts, dressing up and what they have in store for fans this year.
How did Deviant Women (the podcast) start out and what inspired you to start it?
LB: Both of us are doing PhDs in this kind of general area so our research interests intersect in this kind of area of Deviant women, but also issues of representations of femininity, feminist revisionism, female archetypes, monstrous women. So, we’ve talked about this for years. We’ve spent many, many hours just talking about this stuff because we both really love it. I’m a podcast fan, [Alicia is] not, she actually doesn’t listen to podcasts.
AC: It’s terrible because there’s nothing else I would do without engaging with the actual thing. I don’t write stories and not read stories… I don’t try to write novels about reading novels. And yet, I podcast, without listening to podcasts.
LB: So I was the podcast fan, and basically I listen to a lot of podcasts that are by women and have very conversational female banter about serious subject matter but very casual, conversational, funny way. Really I was like, this sounds like a conversation Alicia and I would have– we could probably do this. I think one day in Gresham place we were standing outside of a bar and I was like, ‘Do you want to do a podcast about deviant women?’ and [Alicia] was just like, ‘Alright, I’ll text you about it’, and she did. She sent me a text with a bunch of women she’d thought of and I was like, ‘Oh shit, we’re doing this– cool.’
AC: I was like, ‘I’m along for the ride, as long as I don’t have to do any of the technical stuff.’
What were some of the issues and setbacks you had to face in setting up the podcast in order for it to have a life of its own?
AC: Well it’s easy to start it, but then to have it take on a life of its own… that’s the hard thing.
LB: There were little things, like getting a microphone. My boyfriend is a musician and a sound engineer, so he had microphones but they weren’t the right type of microphone for recording voices. So we had to get over the initial hurdle of ‘we have to get a microphone; we need a website to host the sound files on’. We had to do a little research about what are the best podcasting hosts.
AC: How do we get on to iTunes? How do we even do that?
LB: There was just a lot of Googling and learning by figuring stuff out, but we’re learning that kind of stuff constantly. That was probably the biggest learning hurdle- what are the practical things that we need to do to launch, to have a website? Luckily, we used a lot of people that we know.
AC: Yeah, a friend of mine is an art director and she did a logo for us, which was great. Our logo is such a simple idea, but it was just so perfect. All she’s done is turn [the name] upside down. But that’s the whole point. We were really lucky with how quickly that all fell into place.
LB: India is one of my oldest friends and she’s a musician and I was like, ‘We’re thinking of doing this podcast about deviant women, do you think you could make us a theme song?’ She came back a week later [and said], ‘I’ve recorded this thing. See what you think.’ Then we had to get a fan-base, and that’s been the hurdle that continues, but also, I think is one that I find a really fun challenge.
AC: You say it was a hurdle, and it definitely has been. I mean, that is the big thing: are people listening to us? Are we just shouting into the void, or what is going on? But to be completely honest, we were absolutely blown away with how many people were listening to us. And where they were listening to us from. When we started we were like, we’ll see where this goes, but oh my god, people were listening. They were leaving reviews and they were contacting us and interacting with us on Twitter. People actually care– there are people out there who are actually interested in what we’re doing.
LB: It kind of feels like we’ve broken away from the pack in terms of the really small podcasts. We might be able to graduate into the next level. We’re hoping this year we’ll crack the next level.
AC: This podcast has really been about empowering women. But [a hard part] is actually gaining the confidence to actually say ‘Oh you know, what we’re doing is actually something of worth.’ This is the whole thing with the deviant women that we talk about– as women we constantly have this reinforcement that what we do isn’t valued as much as what other people do; as what privileged white men do.
LB: This is the biggest hurdle for both of us. I mean, I would love to have more guests and have guests who are personalities in the world that people know. We’ve not ever really approached anyone – everyone we’ve had as a guest has approached us. So this year one of our biggest goals is to overcome that hurdle of having the confidence to realise our podcast is something that people like, is legitimate, and we can approach whoever– because the worst they can say is no.
AC: As naff as it sounds: the biggest hurdle is believing in ourselves.
Do you think your background as PhD students – doing a lot of research, doing a lot of study- has influenced the way you approach this podcast?
LB: I mean, I always look for peer-reviewed journals. Academic texts about the women we talk about.
AC: I remember my sister once said to me ‘Do you just read the Wikipedia entries?’ and I was like, ‘No! We’re researchers!’ We may look at the Wikipedia entry, but that’s not the end in what we research. That kind of need, as academic researchers, to know that the information that we’re finding is peer reviewed, is legitimate. Sometimes the information that we find is conflicting, there are a lot of holes, there are a lot of things that we don’t know, but I think that definitely that background as PhD students and researchers feeds into how we approach researching these women.
LB: And also particularly because we want our podcast to have a focus not only on the women’s biographies, but is also thinking about the social contexts and the way that particularly patriarchal structures play into the way that the women that we highlight engage in the world.
AC: I think that really what we do with the podcast itself is: here is a really interesting story about a really interesting person– take all of our information with a grain of salt.
Are you doing season two of the Deviant Women podcast this year?
AC: Yes, season two will begin on March 22nd.
LB: But there’s probably going to be a bonus episode or two before then. Some inter-seasonal specials. We have an enormous and ever-growing list of women we want to cover, so the challenge is going to be choosing which women to cover in this season and which will have to wait for next time. Honestly though, I would really like to know what our listeners want from us. We’ve had a very history-focused first season and we would like to know- is this what you like? Do you want more of this in season two? Do we throw in more mythology? More literature? What do people want to hear? Because we’re interested in all of it.
What made you want to do a stage show of Deviant Women?
AC: Oh my god, do you know what it was? Lauren and I love dress-ups– if someone has a dress-up party we’re like ‘That’s the best news, when is it? Is it in three months?’ I’ll spend the next three months planning my outfit. No worries, we do love dressing up. And I remember saying to Lauren, ‘If only there was some way we could have an excuse to dress up as some of these women from history’, and then we just looked at each other and were like, ‘We should have a live show!’
So, legitimately, what drove our passion to have this live show was wanting to dress up. That is actually what sparked the idea. It’s not what’s still driving the idea– there is some substance to the shows as well, but what started up the idea was that conversation.
LB: This is not the podcast live, this is Deviant Women: the stage show. There’s a lot of podcasts that have live recordings in front of an audience, but it’s not just going to be Alicia and I sitting on two chairs with microphones telling the stories in the same way we would if we were just recording at home. It is a stage version of Deviant Women, so it’s a different product that’s come from the same place, but it’s like the podcast is one part of Deviant Women and it kind of feels like the stage shows are another element. So, we’ll see how that goes.
How did you go about adapting Deviant Women for the stage?
AC: To begin with we actually just thought what we’ll do is we’ll sit down and we’ll record it like we would for a normal podcast. So we did what we normally do– we both decide who will take the lead on each woman. Lauren has a wealth of specialty knowledge in Victoriana, séances, the occult, etc. So it just seemed natural that Lauren would take the lead on Blavatsky, because otherwise I would be re-researching a whole bunch of stuff she already knew. So then D’Aubigny fell to me, which I was perfectly happy with. We just went about researching them separately, doing what we would normally do for an episode, and then we basically just sat down and tried to record it in a similar sort of way that we would for a podcast. From that [we] listened back to find where the really interesting parts lay. What had dramatic appeal, what we could really do something with onstage. That’s not to say that in the stage shows we don’t alter their lives. I mean, it is a fictionalised version.
LB: Well, not a fictional version. It’s a version that based on things that have become legend. It’s more like, this is the legend and these are the stories that are told about them. We can’t verify 100% that they’re true.
AC: Yeah, so listening back to those podcasts we really picked out those moments that were the most sort of interesting, that kind of deconstructed how these women functioned in their societies as well. It is different to the podcast in the fact that we are focusing more on particular parts of their lives rather than giving the entire birth to death, but kind of focusing on the really key moments of interest in their lives.
LB: Pivotal things that make them who they are or show them as being these incredible, ridiculous characters.
AC: So we kind of picked out those moments and asked, where can we go from here? How can we make these moments performative? How can we make these moments dramatic and interesting?
LB: It’s all a work in progress. Even when we perform it, it’ll be probably still a work in progress.
AC: We’re following the chronology in these women’s lives, and there’s going to be some acting– some fabulous acting, oh my god– Oscar award-winning acting will be happening, but it’s not going to be scripted down to letter, you know? It’ll still have that free-flow feeling. And that’s the free-form style of the podcasts themselves.
LB: We have a script, but we might not follow it.
What do you think your audience is going to get out of these shows?
LB: I feel part of the problem we’ve had with this show is not knowing how to categorise it. We’re not quite theatre, we hope that we’re funny but we’re not stand-up comedians. We’re not just a normal event. We’re not strictly storytelling, what are we? So I hope that what audiences get is something that doesn’t fit anywhere, but is different and interesting, entertaining but also informative and maybe gets them a little bit fired up about these women and makes them want to learn a bit more about some people who are also like this, and maybe get them to tune into the podcast.
AC: Yeah, that’s true. But also, I think that it gets them to go away from it and be like, the next person they see being like, ‘Hey, did you know this woman existed? Did you know there was this outrageous woman in 17th century France who was this bisexual swords-woman, opera singer…’
LB: [D’Aubigny] took on literally packs of men at a time. She fought three or four of them at a time.
AC: [For Blavatsky] we’re more the parlour style [séance], it’ll be more like a re-creation. I don’t know that we’ll be calling up any actual spirits.
LB: We hope that’s fun.
AC: It is going to be fun but I think the thing that we really look for with these two [women] is contrasts. Obviously that’s the aesthetic we’re going for with the posters. You look at the D’Aubigny one, it’s pink, it’s flowery, it’s a kind of light hearted, flamboyant story. And then Blavatsky is taking us to that other place. It’s taking us to that dark, mysterious place. So they’re going to be very different shows, both just as entertaining as each other but in very different ways.
LB: Which is why you should see both. We hope the show is fun. We hope that it’s very casual, tongue-in-cheek and we just hope it’s a good time.
Deviant Women will be performing at the Adelaide Fringe on the 26th of February and the 14th of March. You can grab your tickets here. You can learn more about Deviant Women and their podcast on their website, or listen on iTunes. You can find them on Facebook and Twitter.
Tulpa thanks Deviant Women creators Alicia Carter and Lauren Butterworth for taking the time to speak with us. Interview conducted and transcribed by Lisandra Linde.