07
Sep
18

Rovers

 

Rovers

Belloo Creative

Maleny Community Centre

Sunday August 26 2018

 

Next:

Brisbane Festival

Theatre Republic

September 11 – 15 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

RECOMMENDED FOR

 

STRONG FEMALE LEAD

 

BECAUSE YOU WATCHED

 

How do you select what to watch? Without the Netflix prompts, do you consider the poster and PR for a live show, or the recommendation in print or online media, word of mouth or social media whispers? Do you follow the performers, the directors, the production company? What about all of the above? Belloo Creative’s Rovers featuring Roxanne McDonald and Barbara Lowing, written by Katherine Lyall-Watson and directed by Caroline Dunphy, looks to be one of the highlights of Brisbane Festival’s Theatre Republic this year. But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself. I saw it in its simplest form first, on a Sunday afternoon in Maleny, an inspired inclusion in Maleny Winter Theatre Festival within Horizon Festival.

 

 

Australia breeds its women tough – and adventurous.

 

What an absolute joy it is to see these theatre doyennes, Roxanne McDonald and Barbara Lowing, together again on stage after more than twenty years apart. Accomplished performers, completely at ease with each other and with their audience, McDonald and Lowing offer in Rovers a performance masterclass (a life masterclass, really) for re-emerged and submerged artists everywhere, and for Australians of all ages. 

 

 

You don’t need to be in the biz to appreciate that this all-female company holds a firm place now in the Australian theatrical ecosystem. Having been brought on board by Queensland Theatre as Resident Company for 2019 and with a string of award winning original productions behind them, including Sand, Hanako and Motherland, Belloo is one of our boldest, bravest, most original and transparent mouthpieces. 

 

The impetus for the creation of this rollicking storytelling adventure, the reunion on stage of two top performers, means much merriment of the meta variety as we’re let in on a few of the secrets of theatrical careers that have spanned decades. A couple of lifetimes of uncertainty in the arts, and self-realisation and determination applied in equal measure to artistic and everyday pursuits blur with the groundbreaking adventures of elders: the older and maybe wiser, maybe wilder – but not, not really, in so many ways – trailblazing women. Combining intriguing details and vivid characters creates a number of crossovers, in time and context, in a sophisticated storytelling style continually being honed by writer, Katherine Lyall-Watson (Sand, Hanako, Motherland).

 

 

 

Fascinating and often very funny outback tales, neatly shared using minimalist, multipurpose set pieces and props, are woven between real life fourth-wall-torn-down moments, challenging our expectations of the contemporary live theatrical experience, without any AV or…oh, wait a minute. There’s a haunting segment involving AV that will leave you either wanting more of it, or none of it. I’m undecided about it. I forgot to ask the girls about it. I need to see it again during Brisbane Festival with all the bells and whistles. Other than this short, dark break in the regular programming, Dunphy resists creating superfluous imagery, allowing in the most economical way the stories and connections – to the land and to spirit, each woman to the other and each to herself – to become clear through the simplest narrative device, the women switching between actor-characters and multiple story characters. With a hat or a scarf or a flourish they become the women who have inspired them, whose memories have sustained them in difficult times and driven them to succeed in so many areas in life. A series of engaging and entertaining vignettes is sensitively woven together by the wondering and whimsy of McDonald and Lowing in real life, sort of, under the playfully presented premise of our attendance at a wake, which is not a sad affair you understand, but a celebration.

 

 

 

It all seems rather relaxed and raw, and what a pleasure that is to be a part of! The form is so intimate, the theatrical tone swinging between a kind of nonchalance and rather grand, unapologetically indulgent drama. We feel embraced by the women, caught up in a big warm hug, gently and firmly reminding us that we have our bloodlines and our stories too, and don’t forget them! And don’t forget to tell them. 

 

Rovers is a sincere and completely charming, beautifully measured look at the strength and spirit of women trailblazers, a celebration of the sisterhood in its truest sense, pre-memes and inspirational quotes. At the same time, this is a show that manages to hold space for those we’ve lost and also, those parts of ourselves that we may have lost touch with from time to time. In the pauses there’s a sense of stretched time and open space, the quiet vastness of this country…of our hearts…and then it’s gone. The ephemeral nature of theatre. 

 

The stories that are meant for us somehow find us, don’t they? And the tales we’re meant to tell eventually find their way to the surface to be shared. In this is the essence of Rovers, a thoughtfully curated collection of the stories these women were always meant to share. Universal personal stories of strength, sadness, resilience, celebration, fear, grief, love, loss, legacy, memory and mad MacGyver survival skills… and always, the sweetest sense of stopping and breathing – really stopping and breathing – to recognise and appreciate everything we have to gain by sharing our experiences, and everything we might have forgotten we already had. 

 

 


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