The Warehouse as a venue won’t suit many in the audience. It has a few rows of flat seating before another two of elevated stools. At various times the action took place on the floor and was largely obscured. This was a distraction for some, forced to weave between the heads in front to get a glimpse of the action.
The staging wasn’t ideal, and the script too needs some work. Greenwood recounted some stories from the lives of her mother, Gran, and Nan. This was useful in establishing the family connection to country. However, Australians who do not share aspects of the Indigenous lived experience might find Matriarch doesn’t substantially add to their knowledge of the trials faced by Australia’s original inhabitants.
We heard that Greenwood’s mother had her fourteen children taken away. That’s the “what?”, but a journalist would say the more fundamental question is the “why?”. We do hear briskly from a portrayal of a police officer that the children were taken because of “the law”. This is hardly an exploration though, and is rather a missed opportunity to educate.
Generally, Greenwood does a good job of different accents to distinguish characters. At times though, by jumping between timelines and not employing signposting, we were distracted by having to work out when and where we are, and who is speaking, so that we could connect the threads of the story.
By recognising its blind spots and filling in some gaps, Matriarch should find much more that it can show us. Accordingly, it may give us a better appreciation of the strength of the women of Greenwood’s family, and why she holds them in such high regard.
Warehouse – Arts House, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Performance: Saturday 22 September 2018 – 6:30pm
Season continues to 29 September 2018
Information and Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au
Image: Sandy Greenwood (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte