BWW REVIEW: Henrietta Baird's New Australian Play, THE WEEKEND, Is Hilarious And Poignant In Its Portrayal Of Escaping Cycles And Wanting To Be Better
Friday 18th January 2019, 6pm, Carriageworks
Making it's world Premiere as part of Sydney Festival, Henrietta Baird's THE WEEKEND gives audiences a glimpse into a world of woman wanting better for her children and trying to escape the cycle of drugs and poverty that plague her people. Presented by Moogahlin Performing Arts Inc, this one woman play captures the contemporary world of a young indigenous Australian mother with heart, humor and most importantly hope for a new generation.
Henrietta Baird, a dancer and playwright from Far North Queensland's Kuku Yalanji and Yidinji country, pours her own story into the fictional expression of Lara, also a dancer, and her frantic search for the father of her children and eventual epiphany over the course of a weekend. The one woman show, performed by Shakira Clanton, is Lara's first person recount of rushing back to Sydney from her 3 week dancing job in Cairns to find out why Simon has left their children, Kyle (10) and Charlie (12) for three days without food. Fearing an affair and refusing to face the truth she knows about her partner, she finds herself, after a series of panicked phone calls, in Redfern's infamous apartment towers and she captures the character's she meets with impersonations along the way. The essence of THE WEEKEND is that Lara is good mother who doesn't take drugs and only wants a better life for her boys than she had and she comes face to face with the world she is trying to protect her sons from and the realization that she could lose them to the welfare and social services system.
Baird gives the text of the work a beautiful honesty through the type of language and the emotions a young mother fearful of the state of her relationship and the future of her family may feel. She also balances the emotion and suspense with humor and uses comic devices like shelving to achieve moments where the audience is laughing in anticipation of what will inevitably follow. Director Liza-Mare Syron ensures that the work is expressed with a realism and believability without overexaggerating or turning the performance into caricature. With a simple set of a trio mirrors, bordered by LED lights, and a couple of milk crates, the majority of the work is expressed through the storytelling and physical expression and mime created by choreographer Vicki Van Hout. Karen Norris' lighting helps transform the space from the safe dance studio in Cairns to the grimy hallways of Redfern Towers and the children's playground at night.
Clanton, also of Aboriginal Australian descent as well as African American heritage, is wonderful in bringing Lara to life. She captures the cadence and candor of the speech patterns to present an engaging and endearing expression of the young woman. Her ability to morph into the other characters is brilliant, giving each their own voice and physical quirks so that it is clear who Lara is talking to. Her physicality is perfect as she moves barefoot around the stage, ensuring that what Lara is feeling is also coming through in her movement, from the revulsion at the elevators to the joy at coming home to her boys.
Very much about the issues facing Aboriginal Australians, the women of their culture and the cycle of poverty and addiction, THE WEEKEND also holds a message for the wider community, both in the need for these issues to be acknowledged and addressed but also parallels that Lara's story may have with those not in her exact situation but also feeling trapped in cycles. THE WEEKEND is a brilliant play and should definitely be on everyone's must see list for Sydney Festival.
Photos: Jamie James