A brutish fu­ture meets the present

A new TV se­ries is a cau­tion­ary tale given cur­rent events, says one of its stars

Central and North Burnett Times - - SPORT - BY Louise Richard­son

THE Hand­maid’s Tale takes view­ers into the harsh world of a dystopian fu­ture cre­ated by a twisted fun­da­men­tal­ist regime, but while shock­ing, the story is one of hope.

That’s the view of Aus­tralian actress Yvonne Stra­hovski who plays seem­ingly heart­less Ser­ena Joy. Ser­ena is the in­fer­tile wife of a pow­er­ful com­man­der who is forced to take in a hand­maid, or sex slave, Of­fred, in or­der to have chil­dren.

“The show shows so much bru­tal­ity but in the face of that there is still hope,” Stra­hovski tells Week­end.

“At the end of the day it is the story of this woman, Of­fred, who re­ally has no power and there’s no way out for her re­ally, but she still finds ways to fight against what is hap­pen­ing around her and find her mo­ments of power.”

The 10-part se­ries, also star­ring Elis­a­beth Moss, Joseph Fi­ennes and Alexis Bledel, is based on the 1985 Mar­garet At­wood novel of the same name and is set in Gilead, for­merly the United States, which is plagued by en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ters and a plung­ing birth rate.

The to­tal­i­tar­ian regime in con­trol treats women as prop­erty, and while Stra­hovski’s char­ac­ter is per­haps bet­ter off than the hand­maids, the Marthas (house ser­vants), or those ban­ished to work in ar­eas of nu­clear fall-out, she is also trapped.

“In the novel she’s writ­ten as very cold, very bru­tal and we do have that ob­vi­ously in the show, but it was im­por­tant to me to try and find her vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and her hu­man mo­ments,” Stra­hovski says. “I dis­cov­ered a lot of things about her, but just gen­er­ally there was stuff to do with how she used to have a voice and how she now doesn’t and how she’s been stripped of a lot of things that used to de­fine her in a way, you know, like her work and how she was a writer once and a spokes­woman.

“And now she’s not al­lowed to do any of that stuff... she’s not even al­lowed to be in­ti­mate with her hus­band. “There’s all kinds of things that add to her sad­ness and bit­ter­ness.”

View­ers in the US, where the show has al­ready aired, have drawn par­al­lels be­tween The Hand­maid’s Tale and the views of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Stra­hovski says it serves as a cau­tion­ary tale for Aus­tralians. “One of the most amaz­ing things to watch about the show air­ing is ev­ery­one speak­ing up about how it im­pacts them,” she says.

“It’s alarm­ing to watch. We’ve just had an ex­tremely di­vi­sive pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in the States and there’s lots of head­lines com­ing out to do with women’s rights which is ob­vi­ously at the fore­front of the show.

“The par­al­lels are in­cred­i­bly real and I think that is what is re­ally speak­ing to peo­ple.”

Like Of­fred does, and in her own way, like Ser­ena does, Stra­hovski says it’s im­por­tant to keep fight­ing, de­spite what’s hap­pen­ing in the world around you.

“Ev­ery­one is try­ing to stay alive in their own way, in their own right, and that is re­ally what this is about.” The Hand­maid’s Tale – SBS On De­mand – Avail­able to stream from Thurs­day, July 6

PHO­TOS: GE­ORGE KRAYCHYK/SBS

◗ Of­fred, one the few fer­tile women known as Hand­maids in the op­pres­sive Repub­lic of Gilead, strug­gles to sur­vive as a re­pro­duc­tive surrogate for a pow­er­ful Com­man­der and his re­sent­ful wife, played by Aus­tralian actress Yvonne Stra­hovski (be­low).

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