ON STAGE: Kate McDowell wrote and performs Wonderbabes, a play set in Byron Bay on New Year's Eve.
ON STAGE: Kate McDowell wrote and performs Wonderbabes, a play set in Byron Bay on New Year's Eve. Kurt Peterson

Wonderbabes: What it feels like for a girl

WHAT drives a young woman to set herself alight on New Year's Eve in Byron Bay? Is this fantasy or fact?

Wonderbabes is a powerful live storytelling performance by Kate McDowell that exposes the traumas of our young sexual and political lives.

Writer and performer McDowell said that the play is set in Byron Bay on New Year's Eve, and it's the story of one young woman's journey through the night.

"Wonderbabes is about a young woman who's testing her limits,” she said.

"She's angry and frustrated with her mother, the world, and pretty much everyone.

"She wants to cause trouble, get into danger, and feel something intense in order to get to know herself better.

"Wonderbabes goes to some dark places but this is a hero's journey,” said .

Kate McDowell grew up in Lismore, holds a NIDA Postgraduate Diploma in Writing for Performance and is trained in dance, puppetry and performance.

"I wrote this play when I was 26 as a way of exploring the complexity of what I was feeling as a young woman - I wanted to feel powerful and in control and to understand this incredible rage burning inside me. But I also wanted safety, admiration, love and respect,” she said.

"It's a lot for young people to navigate and this is my ode to that time of my life when I was willing to try anything to feel the full force of my power and to beat the sensation that everyone wanted me to just shut up and smile”.

"This is about anyone who rails against being told to behave in a certain way based on social expectations or when they are being silenced for their age, class, race, gender or even for what they wear! For me, I felt rage and confusion about my femaleness.”

McDowell's performance is underpinned by an original electronic score mixed live on stage by composer James Brown.

Wonderbabes will be performed in a large-scale tent complete with open fires and an outdoor bar.

Producer Marisa Snow said the team wanted to create an immersive music festival experience for the performance.

"The Northern Rivers is an epicentre of music festival culture where a lot of young people have formative experiences. Wonderbabes is an opportunity to see an incredibly powerful theatrical performance presented like a kick-arse music gig. The Quad is the perfect site to present this work and play with the work's experimental form in an open-air environment.”

Wonderbabes is a featured satellite event in Byron Writers Festival's 2018 Program.

  • At The Lismore Quadrangle, 110 Magellan St, Lismore, August 2 - 4, 7pm. $30. Book at norpa.org.au or 1300 066 772.