Posts Tagged ‘patrick white playwrights award





Ellen Belloo & Metro Arts

Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre

30 October – 16 November 2013


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward




Three women, exiled from their homelands, find their stories are woven together across continents and decades. Nell Tritton, the Brisbane wife of a deposed Russian prime minister, forms a close friendship with Nina Berberova, who is exiled in Paris. The woman who would tell their story is Alyona, a Russian curator who finds her dreams of a new Australian paradise crushed by bankruptcy and the Fitzgerald Inquiry. 


Katherine Lyall-Watson’s Motherland is fascinating, engaging, intriguing, compelling, gripping and incredibly moving. This is a most intelligent, and beautifully shared story; it’s so sweet and subtle, yet the subject matter runs deep. Motherland is the most elegant, most sophisticated theatrical work we’ve seen in Brisbane in years, and it’s worthy of a main stage season inclusion not just here but anywhere in the world.


The result of four years of research and writing, and shortlisted this year for the Patrick White Playwrights’ Award, Motherland has enjoyed a print run by Playlab to coincide with the inaugural season at Metro Arts and it’s available to purchase online as well as at the venue.


It all begins at Pizza Hut, in Moscow. This is not where the play begins but it’s where this production – the first fully staged production after a reading in June this year – really takes off in terms of its storytelling. Everything becomes clear when a young boy (played by a grown man, Daniel Murphy) is left alone by his mother (Rebecca Riggs), while she goes to defend the barricades around Echo Moscow in the midst of the military coup of 1991. She returns to him and takes him to Brisbane with an Australian man (Peter Cossar), who promises they will return every year to their beloved Moscow.


The first five minutes are challenging, like Brisbane’s storm season, suddenly upon us last week, the light changing, the air thickening, and rain threatening to stop us in our tracks… But just like a Shakespearean text, or an Ancient Greek script, our ears and minds and hearts soon become attuned to the language and to the theatrical devices used specifically to tell this epic story.



All time and no time, KERENSKY makes a speech to adoring thousands, NINA remembers, NELL dreams, ALONYA recites part of a poem by Marina Tsvetaeva and KHODASEVICH comments on the action.

CEO of Metro Arts, Liz Burcham, joked that the word ‘epic’ would be the one most used at the after party and she was right. In all senses of the word, Motherland is epic, a massive story, told over decades that weave together the real and imagined events of people’s lives during a revolution, two world wars and the Fitzgerald Inquiry. I know! It sounds impossible! Katherine has not only tied these events together, she has drawn characters of such warmth and depth that by the end of the 95-minute play we feel like we’ve known about them forever.


These intriguing characters move effortlessly between time and space, and there’s not a DeLorean in sight. As the story twists and turns, becoming more and more complex, incredibly, it begins to make more sense. I’ve heard a number of productions described as “rich tapestries” and here is one that rightly deserves to be known as such.

Motherland’s cast comes with vast knowledge and rich experience. Katherine says they are a “dream team”. They are


Kerith Atkinson – Nell


Peter Cossar – Kerensky / Chris


Barbara Lowing – Nina


Daniel Murphy – Khodasevich / Sasha


Rebecca Riggs – Alonya


I don’t want to single anybody out because I enjoyed each and every performance, the believability of relationships reliant on the truth of each role, and implicit trust established between the performers during the process. As a result of the creative team’s commitment to storytelling and their attention to detail, we miss nothing. I love the choice to employ accents only when speaking outside of the characters’ most intimate circle (a device that others have tried – and failed – to employ successfully), and I feel these actors give us the full gamut of emotions, wrapped up in the intimacy of lives that we had previously known nothing about. Props and set pieces (within a stark design by Annie Robertson, lit beautifully by David Walters), other than the hanging white frames, seem unnecessary and somewhat untidy, but this is a minor quibble and will matter not a wit to others.




Despite losing a little of its pace and power almost three-quarters of the way through, Motherland begins with a bang, moves swiftly, succinctly, and ends so sensitively you’ll wonder where the time went and why you’re suddenly feeling utterly emotionally and mentally exhausted. The final image is one of power, beauty, and possibility. In the same moment it fills us with a deep sadness, and pure joy.

Dunphy’s inspired direction is faultless; it’s an intelligent and sensitive reading, gifting us with Lyall-Watson’s rich, concise words. Motherland marks the beginning of a new era of Australian playwriting, if only there are writers bold enough to follow in Lyall-Watson’s footsteps.


Motherland opens at Metro Arts tonight!


Three women, exiled from their homelands, find their lives are woven together across continents and decades…




Shortlisted  for  the  2013  Patrick  White  Playwrights’  Award,  Katherine  Lyall-­‐Watson’s  play Motherland  heads  for   the  stage  with  emerging  director,  Caroline  Dunphy,  and  a  stellar  cast  including  Barbara  Lowing,  Kerith  Atkinson,   Rebecca  Riggs,  Peter  Cossar  and  Daniel  Murphy.  Metro  Arts’  Season  of  the  Independents  presents  this  epic  story,   which  spans  the  twentieth  century,  World  War  and  the  Russian  Revolution.


Motherland  is  a  story  about  three  remarkable  real  women:  there’s  Nell  Tritton,  of  Brisbane’s  Tritton  furniture   emporium,  who  married  Russia’s  deposed  Prime  Minister,  Alexander  Kerensky,  and  helped  him  escape  from  the   Nazis  in  the  Second  World  War;  there’s  Nina  Berberova,  a  Russian  writer  living  in  exile  in  Paris  with  her  lover,  the   poet  Vladislav  Khodasevich;  and  there’s  Alyona,  a  Russian  museum  curator  stuck  in  Brisbane  at  the  height  of  the   Fitzgerald  Inquiry  when  her  Australian  husband’s  business  goes  bankrupt.


The  three  stories  are  woven  together  into  a  rich  tapestry  that  plays  with  history,  as  it  reveals  the  price  of  betrayal   and  the  lure  of  forbidden  love.


After  four  years  of  research  and  writing,  Katherine  Lyall-­‐Watson  is  still  just  as  intrigued  by  the  real  people  at  the   heart  of  the  play  as  she  was  on  the  day  she  started  writing.  “The  best  and  worst  thing  about  researching  history,”   she  says,  “is  that  it’s  never  finished.  It’s  been  four  years  and  Nell  is  still  an  enigma.  Her  family  helped  shape   Brisbane  and  her  life  was  extraordinary,  but  history  has  forgotten  her.  Writing  Motherland  has  been  a  way  to   bring  her  back  to  life  and  to  re-­‐imagine  some  of  the  moments  that  defined  her.”


Timeframes  and  locations  collide  and  interweave  as  the  actors  play  multiple  characters  in  this  fast-­‐paced  and   passionate  90-­‐minute  theatrical  depiction  of  true  stories.  Caroline  Dunphy’s  direction  brings  rigour  and  fierceness   to  this  contemporary  staging.


Metro  Arts  is  proud  to  present  the  premiere  production  of  Motherland.  Liz  Burcham,  CEO  of  Metro  Arts  says,   “Katherine  Lyall-­‐Watson  is  an  extremely  proficient  playwright  and  we  are  honoured  to  co-­‐present  the  very  first   production  of  her  writings.  Her  plays  need  to  be  seen.” Book here.





Metro Arts Friday Nights and MORE!


So you’re not at Metro Arts tonight either?


We are missing out on Metro Arts Friday Nights!

The exciting Friday Nights program has proven to be a feature of Metro Arts’ program in the first half of the year. On the first Friday of each month, Metro Arts opens its door to share the artists’ space. It is an energetic and social environment for artists and audiences to be in direct conversation, a feast of visual and performing arts, panels, experiments and open studios are programmed alongside a lively foyer bar.


In the second half of 2013, Metro Arts continues to showcase Brisbane’s most vibrant contemporary artists’ work through a program of performances and exhibitions. Metro Arts is proud to announce key partnerships with leading cultural institutions in Brisbane: Jan Manton Art to present Platform 2013, Queensland Music Festival to present Lady of the House of Love, and Brisbane Festival as a hub for the presentation of seven local and international works.


With the support of Drama Queensland and Arts Queensland’s Playing Queensland Fund, Aurelian by Genevieve Trace will be touring regional Queensland between 16 August and 2 September, leading into its premier season at Metro Arts, as part of Brisbane Festival. Through its producing hub, Metro Arts is also co-presenting a season of The Human Company’s The Empty City at the Brisbane Powerhouse as part of their annual children’s festival.


Residencies continue to dominate the program. Korean theatre maker and vocalist, Younghee Park, will be in residence to collaborate with Nathan Stoneham on the development of an adaptation of Brecht’s The Good Person to be presented at Next Wave Festival in Melbourne next year. Marcel Daniels and Daniel Herberg of Other Projects, continues their year-long residency exhibiting Changing Standards of Dialogues to close the Exhibition Program for the year.


Other key projects include the premier seasons of Motherland by Katherine Lyall-Watson, shortlisted for the 2013 Patrick White Playwrights’ Award, and Marcel Dorney’s new work, Prehistoric.


Metro Arts continues to up the stakes. It’s extending beyond its capacity to facilitate opportunities and connections for artists by sharing resources, trafficking information and building exchange networks. Metro Arts is enabling the next step for a community of artists and demonstrating its commitment to growing the entire arts landscape.


The work never ends. As Metro Arts launches this exhilarating program, it is already in preparation for the next flood of artists and projects. Metro Arts is now receiving proposals for the 2014 Exhibition Program and the 2014 January – June Performance Makers Program.





Metro Arts



Metro Arts is a multi-artform incubator and site for experimentation, supporting and developing independent artists through a platform of space, mentoring, producing support, critical engagement and leadership.


Wanna work with Metro Arts? A FOH Position is available. Details online.