Ned Kelly’s Mother is a solo show, starring Nicola McKay as Ellen Kelly. Over the hour-ish running time, Ellen tells us a little of her own life as well as what she experienced of her son’s crimes. We learn about the larger, harder aspects of her existence, with a few songs along the way.
Carrying a show alone on one’s shoulders is never an easy undertaking. Nicola did well in keeping what was a benign script moving forward. Despite the night I attended only having few in the audience, Nicola didn’t let her energy drop (even garnering a few claps during an energetic rendition of Whisky in the Jar).
As nicely structured as Neil Cole’s script is, it leans far too far into exposition and little into genuinely engaging storytelling. The musical sections were fine enough, but always felt more like interruptions rather than interludes organically woven in.
The staging – a chair at one side, a wee table at the other, projection at the rear, while the only other prop – a pike – lies inexplicably off and far away – was admirably sparse. It was unfortunate then that the storytelling didn’t strive to be more than similarly functional.
While it’s fascinating to attempt to unpick the myth and folklore from Ned Kelly’s crimes and what his family endured, something of that mythic element would have been welcomed in the presentation.
The steady pace, harmless projections, and careful delivery certainly relayed plenty of facts, but we got little of the heart and trauma of a time in Australian history that asks questions of what happens to people when they try to civilise hell.
Ned Kelly’s Mother
The MC Showroom, 1 / 48 Clifton Street, Prahran
Performance: Wednesday 24 October 2018 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 4 November 2018
Information and Bookings: www.themcshowroom.com
Image: Nicola McKay features as Ellen Kelly in Ned Kelly’s Mother (supplied)
Review: David Collins