Leah Purcell Writes and Directs World Premiere Stage Adaptation of IS THAT YOU, RUTHIE? at QPAC

Performances begin on 2 December.

By: Nov. 08, 2023
Leah Purcell Writes and Directs World Premiere Stage Adaptation of IS THAT YOU, RUTHIE? at QPAC

Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) in association with Oombarra Productions will present the world premiere season of Is That You, Ruthie?, adapted for the stage by Leah Purcell, in the Cremorne Theatre from 2 December.

It was today announced the season has been extended to 16 December due to demand.

Based on Dr Ruth Hegarty's books – the award-winning Is That You, Ruthie? and Buthalangi: A Maranoa Woman – the new stage show explores a personal and profound chapter of Australia's truth-telling history. 

This deeply moving play delves into the complex aftermath of the government removal policy that separated Ruth and her mother Ruby from 1930 to 1957, presenting audiences with a relationship forever altered by the dormitory system's cruel legacy.  

Four-year-old Ruth was forced to live in the dormitory at Queensland's notorious Cherbourg Aboriginal Mission until her late teens, when she was sent to work as a domestic servant on nearby homesteads. 

At age 69, Aunty Ruth was ready to tell her story, not for herself but for all her children and her dormitory sisters. 
Written and directed by Purcell – an acclaimed First Nations stage and film actress, novelist, playwright and director – Is That You, Ruthie? is a story of resilience, courage and the enduring human spirit.  

Ms Purcell said in the recent time of our nation, concerning First Nations issues, the imperative of truth-telling had never been more apparent.
“Is That You, Ruthie? immerses audiences in the personal journeys of two extraordinary women who endured the harsh policies of ‘The Act'. While their plight is not unique, it is an integral part of our country's untold recent history,” Ms Purcell said. 
“As the writer and director, I am honoured and deeply humbled that Aunty Ruth has entrusted me with her story. At 94 years young, she continues to inspire us to stand in our truth as we breathe life into her story on the QPAC stage.”

QPAC Chief Executive John Kotzas said it was important to share stories such as Aunty Ruth's that encourage understanding of and empathy for those impacted by Australia's true history.   

“Is That You, Ruthie? will no doubt present some uncomfortable truths about our past, but the power and value of theatre is to challenge and change, and I always hope our audiences embrace this,” Mr Kotzas said. 

“Leah's determination to tell this story is remarkable, and the care she has taken with Aunty Ruth and her family's lived history will beautifully translate to this special show; we are all inspired by Leah's leadership in truth-telling through her art.” 

Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said the sharing of First Nations stories like Aunty Ruth Hegarty's Is That You, Ruthie? is crucial to supporting truth-telling and healing in Queensland.

“This QPAC and Oombarra co-production, led by the talented Leah Purcell, invites us into important dialogue around historic policies that continue to impact the lives of First Nations peoples and communities,” Minister Enoch said.

“As home to the rich and diverse cultures of both Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Queensland has much to gain from engaging with the work of First Nations artists and storytellers as we seek to better understand our State's past and shape our shared future.

“Investment from the Queensland Government continues to support QPAC to present works that deliver on key priorities of the Creative Together 2020-2030 roadmap, including elevating First Nations arts, sharing our stories and celebrating our storytellers.”