BWW REVIEW: Noni Hazlehurst Presents A Sublime Performance In Daniel Keene's MOTHER
Thursday 25th January 2018, 7:30pm, Belvoir Theatre
Noni Hazlehurst challenges the audience to consider how they judge and treat the people on the periphery of society in her fabulous performance in MOTHER. The one woman show, written specifically for Hazlehurst by Daniel Keene and directed by Matt Scholten has finally made it to Belvoir Theatre following two successful seasons in 2015 and 2016.
Over 70 minutes Hazelhurst lets the audience into Christie's alcohol addled mind with a series of recollections of her life, her marriage and the child who she loved dearly but was unable to cope with in no specific order. Sharing her story from the grimy back alleys of Melbourne, noisy respite shelters, quiet churches and her sister in law's sleep-out, the audience learn about a mother that was unable to cope. Homeless, she is now a social pariah, judged and taunted by people that have no idea of her demons which she dealt with by drinking.
Kat Chan has kept the black corner stage of Belvoir's Upstairs Theatre relatively bare, littered with dry leaves, garbage, the odd milk crate, bird bath and Christies meagre belongings. To add to the authenticity of the work, Chan has dressed Hazlehurst in tattered stained clothes, the cuffs of her pants and dress splattered with mud and a fabric bag akin to a baby papoose remains slung across her body. Her bare feet, hands and face have an ingrained grime of living rough. Tom Willis' lighting allows the story to transition between the bright daylight of the out of doors where Christie felt more at home, the respite home where she reluctantly retreats to when she needs a break from life on the streets and the muted light of the church where she seeks quiet. Darius Kedros sound design works with Willis' lighting to transform the implied spaces with birds, trains, bells and the chatter of life.
Hazlehurst's strength and sensitivity in expressing this broken woman makes this work captivating even if the story is not one that is particularly enjoyable in its exposure of the uncomfortable realisation that we so easily judge and retreat from people like Christie. She delivers it with an honesty and heart that makes you realise that Christie isn't a bad person, no worse than any other person, but rather a victim of the challenges of life that could affect anyone. She captures the language and tone of the Australian woman that was once a housewife who lived on the edge of poverty before finding herself homeless and comfortable roaming the streets rather than stuck inside. In addition to her wonderful voice, Hazlehurst's physicality is fabulous in its detail. She captures the unsteady balance, constant twitch and unsettled stance of someone that has been affected by constant alcohol abuse. She tells Christie's story, direct to the audience but without making pointed eye contact in the manner of someone recalling memories and simply sharing with anyone who cares to listen but not engaging with the audience.
MOTHER is an amazing piece of challenging, uncomfortable and important theatre that ensures that the audience feel uneasy as they evaluate their responses to people like Christie that they have encountered. Hazlehurst incredibly intense and raw expression tells one mother's story of loss, love, pain, and helplessness in a way that the audience can understand that there is more to her than a dirty homeless woman wandering the streets. Whilst Keene is not necessarily asking the audience to engage with the next homeless person they come across, MOTHER does ask that the audience refrain from being quick to judge and assume that because someone is poor that they are bad.
24 January - 11 February 2018
Photos: Brett Boardman