What’s spiriting about this Sydney Festival production is that brand new names to me in the persons of playwright Henrietta Baird and actor Shakira Clanton, and in the production company, Sydney-based Mooghalin Performing Arts were, between them, able to be selected by the Festival organisers and mount a simple but engrossing production without any significant history in Aboriginal performance. Some credit should go to the Yellamundie Playwriting Festival in 2017 “ an ongoing feature of the Festival – which helped to develop the script. Names out of the blue finding gold.
Lara is a mother and, less obviously, a dancer “ rather like Henrietta Baird, who admits that the play is heavily autobiographical. Her current employment in Cairns doesn’t help her maternal, Redfern-based situation, especially when husband, Simon, goes awol. Shakira Clanton, alone, plays Lara and any number of other characters, from her sons to the many women who may be leading Simon astray, filling the bare stage with colour, tragedy and drama. Her only support is a complex music beat that matched the drama from composers Nick Wales and Dobby, and three mirrors which light up to become the noisome, shit-stained lifts of Redfern’s twin tower blocks and tracking police who seem to think that drugs may be involved!
Indeed they are “ not Lara, but indubitably Simon and the ladies of the night “ and, in the end, one had to wonder why on earth Lara thought that Simon could possibly manage their two boys in her absence. But en route to this uncertain conclusion, we were lead colourfully through the tribulations of so many dysfunctional urban Indigenous up-bringings such that the omnipresent Ronnie’s community service providing heroin, etc to calm down people who would otherwise be screaming their heads off seems almost justified.
Lara’s naivety re her husband and re the imminent danger she’s in of losing her kids to DOCS while carrying Ronnie’s bag of tricks as they dodge the cops aren’t really clarified by the over-neat conclusion that my search for a father almost denied my kids a mother. Or that she may not have been a drug addict but Simon was my fix. But I have to say the audience cheered her ultimate realisation that she needed to dump Simon if she had any hope of a life where she wasn’t needlessly sweating my lady bits out. Rich colloquial language carried many layers of message.