Jane Montgomery Griffiths hopes to inspire with The MILF and Mistress

by | Dec 22, 2022

Midsumma, Australia’s premier queer arts and cultural festival, makes its triumphant return in 2023. The MILF and Mistress is one of the brilliant shows premiering late January promising to heat up Summer.

Asking, does happily ever after simply expire, The MILF and Mistress is a dynamic and darkly comic new Australian work that, according to writer Jane Montgomery Griffiths, actually started off as a joke.

“Dianne Toulson (director) contacted me to ask if I’d like to act in a play for Midsumma that she was planning to direct,” says Montgomery Griffiths. “We had a look at one script and it was so bad we started joking that I should write something. The title The MILF and Mistress was absolutely a joke in a text – but then we started thinking about it and thought “Why not?”, so I wrote the play around the title, and the story line came from that.”

The MILF and Mistress is very different from Montgomery Griffiths usual work, which is often based on Classical/Greek myth. “This play is fun, poignant, a bit dark, but hopefully quite feel-good in a strange way,” she says. “It was also great to write something contemporary, and to write something that told a story I’d never seen on stage before – i.e. the middle-aged lesbian experience. Middle-aged women are generally invisible on stage – very rarely protagonists and mostly just wives or mothers. That invisibility is compounded when the woman is lesbian.

And so that was the genesis – a jokey text correspondence that suddenly turned into a project with momentum.”

Montgomery Griffiths explains that the work explores both universal and specific themes: there’s the universal of the middle-aged, existential angst – the sense that you’re two thirds of the way through your life and that you’ve never had the courage to do the things you’ve dreamt of. Everyone, male, female, non-binary, gay and straight feels that. But there’s also the specific of the lesbian experience.

“My generation – I’m 54 – grew up in a world where being gay was deeply shameful,” says Montgomery Griffiths who has been queer bashed, kicked out of pubs, spat at, sworn at and even forced to move to the other side of the world so she could stay with her partner (back in the bad old days of Tory Britain in the 1990s). “When my partner and I had children, we then had to face a different type of discrimination – we were the only rainbow family in the school yard and so had to be extra nice to gain acceptance; we were interviewed by The Age (unbeknownst to us under the headline ‘radical social experiment’ ) and then faced a tirade against us in a tabloid newspaper, from radio shock jocks and hate mail from fundamentalist Christians who told us it was better our children hadn’t been born than have lesbian parents. Then we had the humiliation of the marriage equality plebiscite. You try to brush off this type of discrimination – and also know you must keep being ‘pleasant’ and not be too angry if you want acceptance – but it creates a deep-seated trauma.”

A deeply personal journey, Montgomery Griffiths admits to having never seen anything on stage that deals with that inner pain, and, for her, that’s an important element in the play. “There’s nothing overt in the piece about it, but it has moulded Ali (the protagonist) and a lot of her self-doubt comes from that place.”

Doing her due diligence, Montgomery Griffiths contacted several professional dominatrices and interviewed them when researching The MILF and Mistress. She also investigated numerous Fetish websites and also attended a Fetish Club Party

“I’m a very quick writer – Di and I decided to do the project in early September and so I gave myself about six weeks to have a first draft.

During that time, I interviewed several professional dominatrices and attended a fetish club plus researched fetish sites. The biggest surprise was the utter care and consideration I found. The professional Mistresses I interviewed were all incredibly caring and utterly fascinating. Wonderful women who have genuine concern for their clients and see their services as necessary and therapeutic.

Similarly in the fetish scene, my biggest take was the high level of respect and absolute priority of safety and consent. My research really highlighted the misconceptions in the general consciousness of the fetish scene – and my own misconceptions. It was a very generous and big-hearted environment.”

The MILF and Mistress poses the question; “In a world where everything is generalised or queer, are we losing the lesbian identity?” The commonplace opinion about lesbians is blinkered and stale, this work aims to educate as well as entertain

Montgomery Griffiths’ own life experience and generation are also keen influencers on the notion of a GLBTIQA+ community.

“Well, I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a community when you’re talking about ‘GLBTIQA+’ – many lesbians of my generation feel both confused and side-lined by the very acronym.

I feel like I’m in a constant process of re-education by my teenage daughters and students (in my day job, I’m a uni lecturer) because the definitions I grew up understanding about lesbian identity have changed so much in this world of gender-performativity and gender-fluidity.

I can’t speak to the experience of the younger generation (and I’m very, very glad the world has changed for them) so I’m just going to concentrate on what I know – a middle aged lesbian experience that is highly under-represented. I hope the Midsumma audiences who come to see this show will see themselves reflected in the play – even if not in the details of what Ali, our heroine, gets up to!”

The heroine is the incredibly versatile Jennifer Vuletic as Ali, a middle-aged intelligent woman who seems confident, but deep down is completely insecure and a bit of a dag. Outwardly, she’s living the lesbian dream! Smoke and mirrors, baby. Smoke and mirrors.

Vuletic was the number one choice for Montgomery Griffiths who says  the first thing she did after she and director Toulson  decided to go ahead with the project was to ring Vuletic and see if she was up for it. “When she said yes, I wrote the play with her in mind. I’ve never properly worked with Jen – only a couple of developments – but she’s one of my absolute favourite actors – without doubt one of the best actors in the country. Her facility with language, her courage, her generosity are unrivalled. And it is beyond a privilege to hear her speak my words. We are very, very lucky to have her!”

Montgomery Griffiths is an actor and playwright and before moving to Australia, she performed with major theatre companies across the UK. Her plays and libretti include Sappho…in 9 Fragments (Malthouse; ABC RN Airplay; Currency Press); Wild Surmise (Malthouse; RN Poetica); Antigone (Malthouse; Currency Press); Sectioned (ABC RN Airplay); Eurydike (NIDA); Echo and Narcissus (Victorian Opera) Trojan Women (Vienna Burgtheater). Her play An Ox Stand on My Tongue and new adaptation of Aristophanes’ The Clouds are scheduled for production at Belvoir 25A and The Stork Theatre in 2023.

When asked what sorts of stories she is interested in telling, Montgomery Griffiths’ response may surprise. “People laugh when I say this, but I actually consider myself to be a bit of a hack. I’ve only ever written plays or libretti because I’ve been asked to – I actually have no self-motivation as a writer and I don’t think there are any stories I feel compelled to write! Basically, give me a commission and I’ll write you a play!”

The show also features a real-life Dominatrix from the Melbourne community in every show and the audience will witness a live video of the actor’s experience in the dungeon. The aim of the design elements is to put the audience in a voyeuristic space, but one where they feel safe.

“The play is probably unlike anything you’ve seen before – both in its subject matter and its production. It’s funny, poignant, dark, sexy and ultimately, I hope, inspiring,” says  Montgomery Griffiths. “Plus performed brilliantly by one of this country’s best actors!”

January 27 – February 4

www.theatreworks.org.au/2023/the-milf-and-mistress

Related Posts

Elijah Williams Makes A case for the Existence of God

Elijah Williams Makes A case for the Existence of God

Acclaimed Seymour Centre favourites, Outhouse Theatre Co (Consent, Ulster American) returns with an Australian premiere from one of America’s most celebrated contemporary playwrights. A case for the Existence of God is Samuel Hunter's heart-wrenching, compassionate,...

Gregory J Wilken talks Toy Symphony at Qtopia, Sydney

Gregory J Wilken talks Toy Symphony at Qtopia, Sydney

By Sarah Skubala Qtopia, Sydney’s inaugural performance season kicks off next month with Michael Gow’s Toy Symphony, presented by Ad Astra Theatre Company, the crown jewel of Brisbane’s professional indie theatre scene. Producer and actor Gregory J Wilken will be...

Sydney Comedy Festival – Ting Lim

Sydney Comedy Festival – Ting Lim

Ting Lim – Enmore Theatre Thursday 16 May – Sunday 19 May https://www.sydneycomedyfest.com.au/event/ting-lim-well-this-is-awkward/ How would you describe the show to someone who knows very little about it? I find it very hard to say no. I’m a yes person. It’s about...