In the underground punk rock world, women no longer sit in the wings but command center stage. However, the spotlight can be dangerously blinding. Cuesta College’s production of “The Emma Peel Game” explores this world and the lives of the women living in it.
Directed by bree valle* and written by Cal Poly theatre professor Phillip Valle, “The Emma Peel Game” is a show unlike any other. In what started as a screenplay, Valle’s newest piece retains its cinematic quality while introducing a new type of play to
“The Emma Peel Game” is a haunting story, based on real events. The plot centers on searching for the killer of a young female punk rocker named Mia, who was murdered after returning from her band’s world tour. The play switches between present-day and the events leading up to the night of the murder.
Through the investigation of Mia’s death, the play exposes many dangers that women face, in some cases on a daily basis. Topics like gender-based violence, rape and harassment are all tackled in “The Emma Peel Game” as the female characters fight perverted men with ferocity and power.
The title refers to a game the women play that involves running through town at night trying not to be seen by anyone. The game becomes an integral part of the plot, where a loss results in devastating consequences.
“The Emma Peel Game” is inspired by the original punk movement, which promoted feminism and offered young women a chance to have their voices heard the way they wanted. Punk music is heavily incorporated in the piece. One might assume the play is set in the 1990s, if not for the iPhones and topical references sprinkled throughout.
Three original songs in the play mimick punk chord progressions, tone and balance. The fast-paced songs heightened the suspense of the action onstage. A heavy drumbeat, the tampering of symbols and baseline also gave the show some of its cinematic quality.
Cuesta student Emily Franklin plays 17-year-old Mia, a character based off Mia Zapata, lead singer of ’90s punk band “The Gits.” Franklin plays the innocent and damaged Mia in a captivating way, commanding a larger-than-life presence despite her small frame.
In striking opposition to Franklin, Cuesta student Lauren Josephs portrays Mia’s bandmate Luce as confident and hot-tempered.
Josephs’ punk voice is striking in nature, capturing the essence of the genre. It is pleading yet soulful and begging to be heard.
The mix of gripping characters and Valle’s use of heavy symbolism keeps the audience engaged and provides a keen depth to telling Mia’s story and that of other young women in a dangerous and violent world.
“The Emma Peel Game” takes audience members out of the world for its duration and brings them to a warehouse with a rich, dark story.
*bree valle does not capitalize her first or last name