Review: De Stroyed

Hypnotising portrait of pioneering feminist Simone de Beauvoir

By Owen James

Suzanne Chaundy and Jillian Murray are clearly lifelong fans of French feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir and have taken on the mammoth task of reconstructing a history of her writing. De Beauvoir’s works span decades, as do the subsequent English translations Chaundy and Murray have used in creating De Stroyed.

De Beauvoir is more than worthy of this theatrical dedication. As a pioneering feminist, her highly influential writing inspired generations of thinkers. Chaundy and Murray’s theatrical scrapbook of her work shows us just how relevant many of her thoughts still are, despite their age – and therefore how far society must still progress. De Stroyed is a contemplative and intimate reminder of the powerful relevancy of this extraordinary woman. The line “sexuality no longer exists” has especially played on my mind since seeing the show – and I suspect everyone will leave the theatre with their own phrase staying with them.

Jillian Murray holds our attention for the full 70 minutes of this one-woman show. De Stroyed is the perfect vehicle for this powerful and experienced female performer to shine in her portrait of de Beauvoir that provides moments of passion and emotion in an intimate setting. Murray’s de Beauvoir is relaxed with her attentive audience, but never passive. Her storytelling ability is polished and trustworthy, providing an honest and highly believable reflection of an extraordinary thinker.

While Murray is alone on stage, she is joined by video projections from Zoe Scoglio. Modern, colourful and precise, de Beauvoir’s musings are amplified with Scoglio’s impressive and often psychedelic visuals. Joined together with Christopher de Groot’s reflective musical compositions, Scoglio’s video art illuminates our retinas while de Beauvoir’s words illuminate our minds.

De Stroyed is inspiring and oddly hypnotic. I feel relaxed at the end of this show, perhaps from the gentle ride through mesmerising visuals and text. It’s a similar feeling I get from finishing a good book or after a long chat with a close friend. While not for everybody, De Stroyed is undoubtedly a work for intellectuals, poets and philosophers – or anybody interested in the work and mind of one of the most influential feminists.

This meditation, contemplation, and celebration of de Beauvoir’s life and thought runs at Fortyfivedownstairs until 27 May. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9662 9966.

Photograph: Jodie Hutchinson