Friday, 30 September 2016

The Drover's Wife, Belvoir

We haven't exactly been short of dramas about Australia's colonial past recently. But very few of them have been from an Aboriginal perspective - yes, they may have included Aboriginal characters as victims or marginal figures, but almost inevitably we've got white stories about the history that still shames us.

Not this time. Leah Purcell has hit the bullseye here, co-opting Henry Lawson's 19th century narrative of the woman left behind in the middle of nowhere trying to make the best of a hostile wilderness, and adding her own Aboriginality to the mix. Performing the demanding lead and scripting should theoretically be too much and feel too self-indulgent - but that's never the case - Purcell the writer serves Purcell the actress brilliantly, giving her a role that starts in reticent agressive reserve before continually revealing more and more sides to this apparently simple woman. Mark Coles-Smith matches her as the escaped aboriginal she initially holds at gunpoint and whose breaking down of the barriers between them is the meat of the play.

Leticia Caceres' staging keeps things tight and simple - a curtain, a fallen tree, and a tree stump, often with axe locked into it, are most of the set. But the menace stays real and strong and the playing is heartfelt and real, bringing us a play that has integrity and skill.

Good solid thumping relevant theatre.

No comments:

Post a Comment