Gender Representations in No Sugar

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Discuss the representations of female characters in No Sugar. How do female characters in the play challenge and/or reinforce traditional gender discourse?

Written by Australian playwright Jack Davis in 1985, the protest play No Sugar follows the journey of a Nyoongah family, the Millimurras, and the hardships and struggles they face during the Great Depression of the 1930s. It was during that period where both European and Aboriginal women were very much marginalized by society and still played the traditional role of mother, wife and nurturer. Jack Davis reinforces certain aspects of traditional gender discourse in No Sugar and "uses women on the stage in conventional ways to emphasize continuity and tradition, nourishment and care". However, at the same time, he infuses female characters, such as Matron Neal, with male characteristics in an attempt to challenge other aspects of the traditional gender discourse. He does this through the use of theatrical conventions such as characterization, stage directions, props and costumes.

"Women traditionally played a central role within the Aboriginal family, within Aboriginal government and in spiritual ceremonies". Gran Munday portrays a very traditional Aboriginal woman. As the female Aboriginal elder of the family, she is the matriarch of the family and the embodiment of strength, a portrayal that strongly supports the traditional Aboriginal gender discourse. At the same time, she fulfils the role of homemaker and nurturer. Jack Davis portrays this through the use of theatrical conventions such as stage directions. As seen in the opening scene, "Gran and Milly sort clothes for washing" and when Jimmy nicks his finger on the axe, she "gives him a cloth for it". The use of stage direction constantly shows that Gran is very in tune with the needs of the family and reinforces the traditional Aboriginal female discourse by illustrating her responsibilities in the domestic sphere. The Aboriginal elders during...
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