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The Studios 2018: An Interview with Edith Podesta (Leda and the Rage)

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The Esplanade’s 2018 season of The Studios has been a wild ride, and ends off with Life! Theatre Award winning theatremaker Edith Podesta’s latest play Leda and the Rage. Inspired by the Greek myth of Leda raped by the god Zeus in the form of a swan, Leda and the Rage will see Edith explore the concept of trauma through one woman’s journey of recovery. Performed by both Edith and Jeremiah Choy, Leda promises a raw, unflinching look at the struggles of those living with post-traumatic stress disorder each and every day of their lives.

We spoke to director, playwright and performer Edith about the concept behind Leda, its relation to her previous works, and ultimately, what it says in the light of feminism’s changing face today, with concepts like #heforshe and #MeToo arising. Read the interview in full below:

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Bakchormeeboy: Leda and The Rage is a reference to the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan. Could you tell us more about why you decided to tackle that myth and the way you’ve decided to interpret it in this piece?

Edith: The cycle of rape is sustained by a society’s belief in rape myths. I wanted to highlight these myths by examining rapes found in mythological narratives. For example,​ Leda, a mortal woman, was raped by the Greek God Zeus in the form of a swan. Historically, male artists have often subverted the narrative so that Leda—the victim—is painted as a willing lover. Leda gave birth to Helen of Troy from this rape. In her lifetime Helen would also be raped. 

Extensive research has been conducted into the types, the impact, and acceptance of rape myths. In Singapore, a study found that 40% of respondents aged between 18 to 39 agree that women who wear provocative clothing are “asking for it”. Rape myths can have very detrimental effects on the victims of rape. For instance, a study of German law students documented that a greater endorsement of rape myths correlated with high levels of victim-blaming and shorter sentencing recommendations for the perpetrators of rape.

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Michelangelo’s Leda and the Swan

Bakchormeeboy: 2017/18 marks the rise of the #MeToo movement, and increased awareness of sexual assault all across the world. How would you like to see the movement progress from here, and what might the end goal be?

Edith: I could write a long list of wishes here, but I’ll get straight to the point by loosely quoting psychologist Mary Pipher: I would like to live in a world where rape in our society is as uncommon and unthinkable as cannibalism. 

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The Immortal Sole, Bitch and Dark Room x8

Bakchormeeboy: Your previous two works (The Immortal Sole and Bitch) have also dealt with feminism and womanhood in various forms. What is Leda and The Rage adding to the ongoing conversation about women?

Edith: As with BitchLeda and The Rage is a dialogue between a man and a woman about men and women. Unfortunately​, people of all ages and genders can be victims of rape, just as people of all ages and all genders can be perpetrators. Too often when we think of rape we think of a female victim, similarly when we think of Feminism we often only think of women – men make up the other half of the population and so too must the conversation. Even when I cast an all-female ensemble (or all male in the case of Dark Room x8), my objective is to have a discourse with the audience – which I hope is made up of men as well as women, especially in the case of Leda. #heforshe 

Bakchormeeboy: How does Leda and The Rage ultimately link back to The Studios 2018 theme of ‘Between Living and Dying’?

Edith: In Leda, Jeremiah Choy’s character quotes Bessel van der Kolk (an M.D. who specializes in the effects of post-traumatic stress). He states that the victims and perpetrators of rape demand “that we suspend our sense of what is normal and accept that we are dealing with a dual reality; the reality of a relatively secure and predictable present that lives side by side with a ruinous ever-present past”. For me, this is the state we all live in on a daily basis; between living and dying.

Leda and the Rage plays at the Esplanade Theatre Studio from 26th – 29th April. Tickets available from the Esplanade

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