*CW: Sexual Violence*
“I will always love you, even from behind the comfort of your brave face” is the kind of thing we’d dream of hearing from our best friend, in a kind of candid, Mamma Mia moment. In reality it’s the parting note from Everleigh Brenner’s one-woman Brave Face, a vulnerably accurate depiction of a woman’s lifetime shackle to sexual violence. Experimenting with dual effects of film and interactive social media, we follow Em while she grapples with the daily consequences of a misogynistic social structure, from the letchy boss with overtly inappropriate behaviour, to the endless stream of dates that can’t seem to ingrain gender-based decency into their existence. In fact, we’re grappling right alongside her. Brenner’s penchant for breaking the fourth wall, her sense of ease and relatability and self-assured, approachable nature mean we’re actively reliving our every personal harassment with her. That’s the real beauty of Brenner’s storytelling—she’s performing every woman’s nightmare simultaneously, except it’s our continued reality.
There’s an immediately likeable element to this play, almost as if Lizzie McGuire took on the themes that Girls once tried to encapsulate. Brenner throws caution to the wind to capture the explicit vulnerability we sorely need in our mainstream narratives, broaching violent solutions many of us wish we could have acted on. The need to desperately seek approval and continuously give is the thread throughout Brave Face’s 40 minute run, presenting us with well-worn biased assumptions and challenging patriarchal sexual expectations. What the writing does so well is to bring our attention back to the truths we’re bored of familiarising ourselves with, digging deeper to highlight social injustice. Its hectic, chaotic speed mirrors the gendered complexities, without any kind of rose-tinted actions to skirt around sensitive issues. As Brenner says herself, we’re integrated against our free will into a “systematic allegiance”, fighting like a deer in headlights against fear and threat in order to survive. We hear the answers while filling in the male conversational gaps, because we know them all. And no exploration of modern sexual violence would be complete without the lovely ‘nice guy’ not listening to “no” after all—because it may not be all men, but it’s too many.
Brave Face is possibly best described as reality disguised as black comedy. Classic gendered tropes are turned on their head, while the act of trying to dangerously one-up a man in order to avoid danger itself is an assault on the senses. We see one woman, yet it’s the weight of an entire culture on her shoulders, keeping emotions high and every nuanced detail in check through its inviting visuals. Brenner is quite right—her metaphorical dick is indeed huge. With it, she’s created an authentically special experience, leaving us with new knowledge and a best friend.
Brave Face’s resources for sexual assault survivors can be found here.
Words by Jasmine Valentine.
Support The Indiependent
We’re trying to raise £200 a month to help cover our operational costs. This includes our ‘Writer of the Month’ awards, where we recognise the amazing work produced by our contributor team. If you’ve enjoyed reading our site, we’d really appreciate it if you could donate to The Indiependent. Whether you can give £1 or £10, you’d be making a huge difference to our small team.