Interview: Petra Elliott talks about Petrasexual
I first met Petra Elliott at a recording of the Dr Who podcast, Splendid Chaps, where she lent her lovely voice to the announcements and discussion. She’s now preparing to start recording on the radio series Night Terrace, recently funded via Kickstarter and created by the team behind Splendid Chaps.
Right now, though, Petra – an actress and singer – is performing in her first solo cabaret show Petrasexual, a show about sexuality, acceptance and enthusiastic consent! Naturally, I asked Petra a few questions about the show.
Tell me about the songs in Petrasexual
Put That Where? was a song I wrote 10 years ago, about a sexual encounter that was not like anything I’d experienced. At the time when describing the style to the producer I said I wanted something you’d hear in a ‘disco funk porn’ soundtrack. He pretty much nailed it. But we’ve stripped it right back for this show, with just the piano and bass, and it gives me an opportunity to play with the theatricality behind the story.
I’ve rewritten lyrics for my parodies to Pharrell Williams Happy (Because we’ll marry – now in support of Marriage Equality) and Blurred Lines. There have been many remakes of Blurred Lines along similar themes to what I’ve done, but I wanted to focus on enthusiastic consent, and victim shaming and the ‘justification’ that seems to happen in our society when talking about rape victims – and this goes right up to how media and police officials describe/report these events (usually with a tone of “It wouldn’t have happened if…”)
(You just need to look at two examples from New Year’s Eve just gone. One: a girl walking home along a beach was raped, there are barely a few media reports on it, and the police even described the event as “It wouldn’t have happened if she wasn’t walking alone”. On the other hand, the same night, a young man gets king hit, and later dies. There is constant media reporting, a push for change in our culture, via changing the term king hit to coward punch, and altering the liquor licensing laws. No one said “he shouldn’t have been walking in a suburb known for violence”. But the rape victim’s story went untold, rather than spurring on a push for education to our young men ‘don’t rape’, or a change in term like ‘coward sex’. It’s like we just have to accept that rape happens. And that’s why I had to write my parody the way I did. Because we need to change the voice that’s being heard on this issue: “I know you want it”, “Fuck no, Thicke! You don’t know shit unless words of enthusiastic consent come out of my mouth!” )
And most other songs are covers that I’ve adapted or rearranged musically to suit the story. Say My Name/I’ll Kill Her is an old open mic favourite of mine, and I just love the dirge feel we’ve given it – almost like mourning the loss of a relationship. It’s great to take a ‘pop song’ and perform it so emotively, to really take lyrics and perform them in a way in which the emotional story can be actually heard, rather than just groove along with the song.
What did you get most out of creating/performing the show?
It has been nerve wracking and yet so empowering to create my own show, rather than riding on the coat tails of all the talented people around me. I’m the sort of person who feels things very passionately, and so to put that focus into a cohesive script, and narrative, in order to have my voice heard on these multiple issues, has been very very rewarding. Especially when it has been so well received, to date. And if my work helps someone in the crowd to become more accepting of the word ‘cunt’, or of someone’s sexuality that’s a ‘little bit different’ to theirs, or even to become an advocate for equality and acceptance (of any kind) then that’s just brilliant.
I really just love having the opportunity to get up there and sing, with such amazing musicians, in a venue that supports new and emerging work. And if the audience has an hour where they laugh, smile, identify, reflect and feel safe to come and share my journey with me, then I couldn’t ask for more!
The show has also marked a significant turning point in my life. It was never meant to be so, but it’s amazing how art can challenge you, and how you rise to those challenges. The lesson learned for me is to no longer wait for art to be created for me to participate in, or be held back by other peoples expectations. I’ve been very fortunate to have amazing support in the creation of this show, through my musicians, the venue and industry peers. It’s been so inspiring.
And I want to continue to challenge myself, and create an experience that is an entertaining, yet reflective journey for anyone who dares to come along! In creating this show, the muses have been very kind, and the ideas keep flowing. Whether it’s another iteration of Petrasexual or a brand new show, something tells me I’m going to be very busy!
What do you hope the audience will get out of it?
I recognise with a name like Petrasexual chances are people are already fairly open minded if they’re coming to the show, so I’m probably halfway there. But there are a few topics that I’m passionate about that I hope to give the audience another point of view on topics like Marriage Equality, Victim Shaming, portraying women in a way they aren’t being disrespected. Most importantly, I hope my audience hears some part of the show and feels “Huh, I’m actually ok!” Acceptance is key!
While the story behind Petrasexual is obviously from my point of view, and will as such have a feminine slant, I was delighted to hear that the topics have reached more than a few audience on a personal level. One gay man said he really could identify with a few of the themes.
Another lady saw the show 2 weeks running, the first having been through a very recent marriage break up, and the second after having met a new love interest, where things are all exciting again! She has said she experienced the show from 2 completely different perspectives, and drew so much each time, which I just love the idea of!
Because I never wanted this show to be about a woman on stage talking about her pathetic love life. I wanted to touch on themes that I feel are important for our society to get right. Relationships really are universal, regardless of your sexual orientation, gender, marital status, political view or your current outlook on life. I want to celebrate how different we all are, because when you accept those differences and bring all that together we can then celebrate what an amazing community we are.
Petrasexual is on at KaDo, 32 Cremorne Street, Richmond. The next two performances are on Friday 18th April and Friday 25th April at 8pm. Tickets from $25.