With the support of the team at Ballarat Museum, Tish Bourke and Sophie Heather (Bourke & Heather) have created a new work that brings to life some of the stories of 19th century women—where travel to Australia was linked to a breaking free from convention and societal expectations. The 30-minute episodic show begins with the meeting of Robert (a port worker) and Andrew. As the play unfolds, we discover that this is not the story of a port worker and a newly arrived lad; these are the stories and dreams of Anastasia (Sophie Heather) and Rebecca (Tish Bourke).
The play centres on the challenges facing women in 1853 Melbourne—touching on domestic violence, discrimination, and the dangers of the journey to Australia. The work has direct relevance to the experiences of women in 21st century Australia, and also reminds us of the challenges faced by our predecessors.
The actors were compelling, although I did find that the acoustics in the space didn’t always help with hearing some of the words (the sound certainly bounced around the walls, but I was sitting toward the back). I loved the writing: great story arc, interesting plot, and a show that worked really well as a two-hander. The music/audio was well-chosen, and amplified the tale. The costumes were simple and very effective. The props and set were appropriate, and ensured that the show was easily set-up and removed.
I hope the cast and director realised that our applause didn’t start straight away because we were all so engaged in the story that we had to be prompted to know it was over.
The Woolloongabba Substation is a great Communify space, but I would love to have seen this show in a more relevant site–perhaps by the water, in a space more closely connected with DV support/women’s rights, or at least outside. I was also intrigued by the pre-show dance; excellent dance moves, but I only realised how it connected with the main performance when I heard that Alex Chiarelli featured in the pre-show gumnut play.
Verdict: Great writing, and compelling performances.
Audience tip: Golden Dreams has only five performances in the 2021 Anywhere Festival program (30 minutes. 15+). Tickets $20. The Woolloongabba Substation (45 Logan Road, Woolloongabba, QLD 4101) is an accessible venue. Arrive early if you require a parking space in the neighbouring streets. COVID-safe protocols include seating of each party in separate groups. Expect a request to leave the space promptly at the end of the show.
The reviewer attended the Saturday 15th May 2021 performance.