by Charlotte Pordage


Head to Brunswick’s Howler this Thursday, where the Melbourne Playback Theatre Company will be kicking off their 2016 season with The F-Word: Celebrating International Women’s Day.


The company will be showcasing their new event format, which features a Q&A discussion with a panel of experts at the beginning of the evening, followed by one of Melbourne Playback’s unique performances.


“It creates this really great context for the show so the stories are, in a way, inspired by the panel discussion just as much as they are inspired by what the audience members are thinking of at the time,” said Melbourne Playback’s Co-Artistic Director Emily Taylor.


A Melbourne Playback show is a truly interactive experience, with audience members invited to share their stories and watch the team of professional actors and musicians bring them to life.


The ensemble hone their improvisation skills weekly, exploring how they can highlight particular aspects of a story through metaphor and genre and different performance forms.


“We’re always trying to illuminate the story in some way when we play it back in theatre, it’s not just a blow-by-blow recreation of what we’ve heard already. We have had storytellers be moved afterwards or in tears or just absolutely feeling validated because a team of performers got it, they got what they were trying to say,” commented Emily.


The F-Word: Celebrating International Women’s Day marks the company’s first performance of the year and boasts a panel of some of Melbourne’s most respected feminists, including writer and social commentator Clementine Ford, multicultural women’s rights campaigner Melba Marginson and Women’s Agenda editor Jane Gilmore.


Originally from the Phillipines, Melba Marginson is best known as the Founding Chair and Executive Director of the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition, the peak body representing migrant and refugee women’s organisations across the state.


She pioneered the development of a Women’s Leadership Course specifically tailored to migrant and refugee women and has been directly delivering this course to hundreds of women in Victoria since 2003.


“I believe that the only ones who can release themselves towards achieving their goals are the women themselves. It’s really important that they get educated about their rights, their importance in the world, about what they can do together and individually,” said Melba.


“The three most difficult issues faced by refugee and immigrant women are social isolation, family violence and lack of employment opportunities,” she added.


After moving to Melbourne in 1989, Melba was compelled to take action when three Filipino women were murdered by former partners in the space of 18 months. The first Filipino community event she attended in her new city was the funeral of Gene Bongcodin, a “mail-order bride” from the Phillipines who was strangled to death by her husband.


This event was the catalyst for the formation of the Centre for Philippine Concerns-Australia (CPCA), which has worked tirelessly for the protection of Filipino women, despite challenges in acquiring funding.


“Governments wouldn’t pour resources into our programs to protect women against domestic violence because we are not white- we are the other,” Melba said.


In 1994, she led a national campaign that helped bring about the Domestic Violence Provision to the Immigration Act of 1982, legislation that has benefitted thousands of women.


In addition to an all female panel, Thursday evening will feature an all female Playback cast in support of the occasion.


The F-Word is part of a series of Q&A shows, with themed events scheduled for Sorry Day, Refugee Week, Science Week and Mental Health Week.


“We’re really excited to do a whole season addressing all those different issues and we hope to follow up next year, doing different issues again. We really want to tap into groups that may not get much of a voice or public platform and shine a light on these issues and hear different perspectives,” said Emily.


Melbourne Playback has been operating throughout Victoria in the corporate, government, community and education sectors for over 30 years. It is a not-for-profit organisation and part of a worldwide network of independent Playback Theatre companies.


The F-Word: Celebrating International Women’s Day, Thursday 10 March, 7pm, Howler, 7-11 Dawson Street, Brunswick. To book tickets, visit

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