Posts Tagged ‘roxanne mcdonald





Belloo Creative

Maleny Community Centre

Sunday August 26 2018



Brisbane Festival

Theatre Republic

September 11 – 15 2018


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward








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. 




Head Full of Love

Head Full of Love

Head Full of Love

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Cremorne

7th July – 11th August

“Telling stories can make a difference.”

Wesley Enoch, QTC Artistic Director

Head Full of Love is a cry from a community to be heard, a voice from Central Australia still believing that theatre can be a place where audiences can enjoy and be entertained by stories, literally in this case, from our own heart.”

Alana Valentine, Playwright

Indigenous Australians are 4 times more likely to die of kidney disease than non-Indigenous Australians.

Head Full of Love is the most beautiful, vibrant, straightforward storytelling you will experience all year. From the head and heart of Playwright, Alana Valentine (Run Rabbit Run and Parramatta Girls), this is an extraordinary piece of theatre and one of the most important current works in this country, in terms of art and politics marrying up to inspire social change. We’ve seen some proof of this already, with over $14 000 donated by patrons, post-show to The Purple House (Western Desert Dialysis) during the 2010 season, which saw the story of Tilly and Nessa’s unusual friendship shared with the people of Darwin, Alice Springs and Cairns.

“Head Full of Love is a heartwarming story about friendship and reconciliation.” Sue Donnelly

Perhaps the first step to reconciliation is friendship.
Roxanne McDonald & Colette MannSet in the red centre during the lead up to The Annual Alice Springs Beanie Festival, Head Full of Love sees Tilly Napuljari running out of time to finish her new creation in time to enter it for judging. Nessa Tavistock, a Sydneysider, has run away to escape her own problems back in the big smoke. Their unlikely friendship helps both to heal – physically and emotionally – and challenges and inspires us to think again about what it means to be truly accepting and supportive of each other as human beings.

Designer, Simone Romaniuk, has given us the harsh landscape of the outback in all its disheveled glory, with a corrugated iron backdrop (upon which the images of Tilly’s country are projected), household junk and that ubiquitous red dirt in abundance. Underneath Ben Hughes’ warm lighting design, this set is at once arresting, disarming and full of wonder. Nessa is completely out of her comfort zone and as audience members who watch the women sitting in the red dirt from the comfort of an air-conditioned, well appointed theatre, we wonder how anybody could survive in such a place! But they do. (Though some may never feel quite comfortable or local. This is a place where the nurses who assist their renal patients sleep on top of the roof racks of their troop carrier. Snakes, you know?).

Composer and Sound Designer, Brett Collery, provides an evocative story behind the story and we are immersed in Tilly’s world, which is full of much more humour and light-hearted fun than we had ever expected. The scope of this piece is wide and it will catch out many who may have thought, “This is not for me.” This play IS for you. As well as the political message, which you can leave behind if the play leaves you cold – unlikely – you’ll get an evening of beautiful drama/comedy, quite unlike anything you’ve seen yet. As Director (and Artistic Director of QTC), Wesley Enoch suggests, “As Australians, we are too often ignorant of the issues facing Indigenous Australians. Telling stories that illuminate a neglected issue is an important role for a theatre company…telling stories can make a difference.” Even if you’re able to ignore the plight (who ARE you?!), you’ll be touched by the performances of the actors; they are a couple of this country’s best.

Colette Mann & Roxanne McDonaldColette Mann and Roxanne McDonald have worked with Wesley Enoch on Head Full of Love since its original co-commission in 2010 by Darwin Festival, 32” Browns Mart Producing Hub and Red Dust Theatre. This has been a wonderfully close collaboration, with the playwright, actors and director meeting people in the community to hear their personal stories first hand and it’s a perfect example of how we can create new theatre for all audiences, without leaving any demographic outside of the storytelling circle. We get it. We respond to it (those who are able to have the option to donate on the way out so if that’s you, remember your cold, hard cash for the cause) and we leave the theatre wondering why there isn’t more being done.

Theatre has long been about news delivery and political change. The nuances with which this story is told balance its boldness, the characters are beautifully juxtaposed and the subject is explored to within an inch of its life without any of us feeling as if we are being preached to. Head Full of Love opens up topics of conversation that we have all been wary of discussing. But that’s dispelled with Mann’s opening lines, which ponder the need to say sorry to Tilly! It’s hilarious and touching material. This work explores so many important issues (and encourages us to see the humble beanie in a whole new light!), that you’ll be questioning everything you believe being Australian means.

Patrons created some of the amazing beanies you see on stage and in the foyer. After the season closes, these beanies will be donated to families in need, through St Vincent de Paul’s Hope House.

In line with this heart-warming production, Queensland Theatre Company is putting out the call out for winter warmers to fill our Beanie Bin and assist those who are really feeling the cold this winter. The QTC Beanie Bin is located in the Cremorne Theatre foyer, and we are calling for good quality, second hand knits, beanies, scarves and any other woolly-warmers to go towards St Vincent de Paul’s Winter Appeal and make someone else’s winter a tad more toasty. For more information on the Alice Springs Beanie Festival visit