From 1880s vibrators to 1980s Adriana Xenides: Two plays about female icons that’ll make you buzz.

Black Swan State Theatre Company
Thanks to our brand partner, Black Swan State Theatre Company

Every woman knows that the girlfriends who PLAY together, stay together, right?

And girls, we’ve got the best playdate idea for you.

The Black Swan State Theatre Company in WA has two plays starting mid-October which celebrate two unsung, very important female icons of the past 150 years: the humble yet revolutionary vibrator, and the woman who vibrantly lit up our TV screens in the ’80s and ’90s: Adriana Xenides.

They may both make unlikely subjects for plays, but both of these shows tap into stories about women that push the boundaries, exploring everything from historic female oppression to modern female empowerment  – in the most humorous, refreshing, and entertaining way.

One thing’s for sure: they’re guaranteed to fuel your post-play wine debrief.

In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play by Sarah Ruhl

Ah, the vibrator – many of us can’t imagine a time without them. But there was.

This play is a comedy set in the 1880s about the vibrator’s history as an original invention by a man. In stark contrast to its current use as a sex toy, the vibrator was developed to control the archaic concept of ‘female hysteria’ – you know, basically, women having emotions. (Many of us will recall ‘female hysteria’ and its original treatment was also the subject of the 2011 movie, Hysteria, with Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal.)


Today we still use vibrators as a ‘psychotherapy tool’ – albeit in a much more empowering way, in our quest for our God-given right to the female orgasm.

Playwright Sarah Ruhl reimagines how the vibrator was originally used to treat women via Dr Givings, who marvels at the invention and what it can do for his patients: producing ‘euphoria’ by massaging them with it.

What a strange and unique concept, Givings thinks.

It’s going swimmingly, with the doctor’s popularity increasing by word-of-mouth…until Givings’ wife finds out about what he’s up to in “the room”.

In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play looks at so much more than the sex toy; it’s about the evolution of the female psyche, modern medicine, and men.

Nominated for three Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize, this is hilarious, informative and, ahem, stimulating play is guaranteed to…hit the spot.

And make you think long after your ‘hysteria’ wears off.

Xenides by Clare Watson and collaborators

Most women in their 30s and 40s know about television host Adriana Xenides, who made spinning the wheel on the Wheel of Fortune impossibly glam five days a week. In her time as host, she wore an astounding 4000 dresses, turned 200,000 vowels, traversed 500km in killer heels and always beamed that million-dollar smile.

Xenides’ public persona was the stuff little girls’ dreams were made of. But what we didn’t really hear about was the woman behind the stage makeup – the migrant, feminist, and real woman Adriana was when she kicked off those stilettos.

Her story is operatic in scale: rags to riches, the migrant’s journey, the fairy tale princess and the tragic icon, who died far too young – she was only 54.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Xenides came to Australia as a child. She became a Guinness World Record holder for being the longest-serving game show host of all time; 18 years – still an Australian record.

Xenides’ personal life was the topic of much conversation in her home-town of Adelaide. The model married three times, and had several fiancés, which made her the subject of tabloid gossip. The final years of her short life were packed with drama – there were drink-driving charges, and constant health issues – which led to her premature death.

But the part of her that the public admired the most was her heart of gold and generosity of spirit, demonstrated by her tireless charity work with organisations such as Telethon. This is why the Xenides legacy lives on in the minds of many Australians.

For these reasons, it’s fitting that Xenides the play is a larger-than-life, world premiere, top-dollar musical scored by classic ’80s pop. As an energetic musical exposé, it gives voice to the woman who was largely misunderstood and misrepresented.

It’s described as “both hilarious and tender, a tribute and a protest”. Intriguing!

So add some play to your playtime and take your mum, sisters or girlfriends to check out these ground-breaking shows. They’re the best reason to treat yo’selves to a fresh and feisty feminist night out courtesy of the Black Swan State Theatre Company this October/November – before the chaos of Christmas hits.

Buy tickets online at

The Vibrator Play:

Double the fun: Add both plays in your cart when booking and you can access a special price of $100 per person for the pairing.

Black Swan State Theatre Company is Western Australia’s leading theatre company.

The 2019 season ‘Where The Heart Is’ is hot off the press! A season about family, and in particular, the myriad of Australian families. It’s a collection of characters and stories that explore belonging. It asks us what it means to be a citizen and belong to a community.

Explore the pieces of the heart today!