Rovers

Rovers
Written by Katherine Lyall-Watson. Directed by Caroline Dunphy. Devised by Belloo Creative. Presented by Brisbane Festival and QUT. The Block, Theatre Republic. 11 – 15 September, 2018

There’s something glorious about witnessing two succulent wild women expressing themselves fearlessly onstage. It’s even more magnificent when those two women have spent over thirty years apiece honing their craft. Barbara Lowing and Roxanne McDonald are resplendent in Rovers.

This is a show created for and inspired by these astounding actresses. They rise to the occasion with hilarious physicality and facial expressions, multi-faceted and nuanced characterisations and 100% believability and commitment. Both have buckets of charisma and soul. They lithely skip from character to character as a mix of fictionalised and verbatim snippets of stories from their own and their ancestors’ pasts play out.

Writer Katherine Lyall-Watson’s superb script creates a collage of brave and inspirational moments. There’s enough narrative to make sense, interwoven with slightly surreal moments that can be open to more flexible interpretation. The women’s adventures are interspersed with a recurring theme of ‘the boogie man’ a concept that represents different people and things in each woman’s story. The narratives are also related by mortality, adventure, family, friendship, love and connections. While some moments may bring a tear to the eye, it’s ultimately hilarious and uplifting, with a completely joyful dénouement.

There’s a lot of creativity, guts and heart to Caroline Dunphy’s direction. There is a delightful ‘dress-ups’ feeling to the Brechtian costume changes on stage. There are fun surprises in the music and the way props and set pieces are introduced. You can feel she’s taking the subject matter seriously enough to create the right mood while still having a whole lot of fun with this playful interpretation.

There is lovely lighting design from Christine Felmingham – moments to make you stop and take a breath to inhale the visual beauty. The star of Jonathan Shankey’s set design is the piece that’s reminiscent of an old fashioned corrugated water tank on stilts. This play has a distinctively Australian flavour to it, from the aforementioned set design, to the warmth of the lighting and the Australian vernacular. Our unique landscape is like another character in the show. The excellent soundscape designed by Dane Alexander also supports the Aussie feeling.

Belloo Creative is continuing their streak of developing outstanding shows. They’ve brought us a production that celebrates women without alienating men. They’ve delivered a performance with diversity that isn’t tokenistic or patronising. They discuss serious and important concepts without lecturing or depressing. This is a cast and crew delivering state of the art theatre. It’s a standard to which other productions can aspire.

Kiesten McCauley 

Photographer: Cinnamon Smith

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