Sunday, 25 July 1999

Stolen by Jane Harrison, July 25 1999

Stolen by Jane Harrison
 at Beckett Theatre Malthouse, July 24 until August, 1999
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

This second season of Stolen, by Jane Harrison is, theatrically, a smoother ride but is still a emotional roller coaster. The stories of five aboriginal children who were stolen from their families are so achingly sad that they are difficult to watch.

This is not to suggest that the play is all trauma and darkness. It is a romp in parts, with some sweet and funny moments. We watch children at play, being naughty, missing mum, keeping secrets, hoping for home. We hear myths about the creation of the white man who stole babies and the evolution of the red desert sand.

The play went to stage initially during the Melbourne Festival last year, in a co-production by Ilbijjeri Theatre Co-operative and Playbox. The script has involved many artists in its development that may be the reason it does not have one consistent voice.

This revival replaces two actors. Lisa Maza demonstrates substantial acting skill as Ruby, the child who becomes the target of a white man's abuse. Elliot Maynard plays Jimmy who, as a child, awaits his mum's return to collect him until he is told, falsely, that she is dead.

Shirley (Pauline Whyman) is a sturdy girl who, as an adult, is determined to find her own children who were also stolen. Sandy (Stan Yarramunua) is a wanderer who ran from the welfare as a tot and continues to search for "home". Anne, (Tammy Anderso)  the palest-skinned child adopted by a white family, is torn between two families and two cultures.

The company is strong ensemble that is enhanced by Wesley Enoch's vision as a director. The script is a non-linear narrative that merges past with present. Enoch uses stylised physicalisation to heighten dialogue and adds simple visual imagery with projections against Richard Roberts evocative demolition site. Stark lighting (Matt Scott) creates deep shadows through metal beds that double as gaol. The soundscape by David Chesworth is atmospheric.

The performances capture the charm and warmth of this community who have suffered so much at the hands of the white brothers and sisters. But it is the actors' personal statements at the very end that set the tears rolling. The audience could have applauded for hours if the cast had not left the stage.

By Kate Herbert

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