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.