Sunshine Super Girl

Sunshine-Super-Girl-photo-by-Paz-TassoneBorn in Griffith NSW, Evonne Goolagong was a household name by 1971 when she won the women’s tennis singles tournament at Wimbledon leading to her being named Australian of the Year.

She went on to have a glittering tennis career, winning no fewer than 14 Grand Slam tournament titles and being inducted into the Australia Hall of Fame in 1985, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1988.

Written and directed by Andrea James, Sunshine Super Girl celebrates Goolagong’s achievements and career in a charming doco-style presentation performed by an ensemble cast in which Ella Ferris portrays Evonne Goolagong, supported by Katina Olsen, Jacqueline Compton, Sermsah Bin Saad and Lincoln Elliott portraying a myriad of other significant others involved in Goolagong’s story.

Played out on Romanie Harper’s simple, attractive setting representing an actual tennis court, complete with a tennis-net able to be moved around by the cast, and four metal benches which neatly double as the family car, Goolagong’s childhood bed in Barellan which she shared with her brother, and whatever other purposes required of them.

Imaginative lighting design by Karen Norris transforms the court into clay or grass when required to differentiate the various international tournaments in which Goolagong competed, and also divides the stage into smaller areas for the more intimate scenes.

Vicki Van Hout’s simple, effective choreography provides an elegant solution for portraying Goolagong’s endless tennis practice sessions, firstly on the walls of the family home in Barellan, and later on various tennis courts around the world, under the watchful eye of coach Vic Edwards, as well as the significant tennis tournaments in which she participated.

Despite bearing little physical resemblance to Goolagong, Ella Ferris nevertheless charms with her depiction of her as a calm, unflappable soul who sails through life largely, unaffected by the challenges thrown at her by her chosen career.

While the script dutifully works through the significant events in Goolagong’s life and career, it misses opportunities to explore the motivations, drama and sacrifices behind those events. It often feels like an extended monologue, interrupted only as the other members of the cast join Ferris to act out significant incidents in Goolagong’s life but in such a broad cartoonish style that there is little opportunity to make much individual impact.

So although the audience is entertained by this charming portrait of Goolagong as a folksy, unflappable Australian sportsperson, it is ultimately left with little insight into the person behind the public persona other than the impression that she would have much rather have been fishing rather than pursuing the career that brought her world fame.

Sunshine Super Girl
The Q – Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, 253 Crawford Street, Queanbeyan
Performance: Wednesday 2 November 2022
Season continues to 5 November 2022
Information and Bookings:

Sunshine Super Girl will be presented at the Southbank Theatre, The Sumner, from 9 November – 14 December, as part of Melbourne Theatre Company’s 2022 season.

Image: Sunshine Super Girl – photo by Paz Tassone

Review: Bill Stephens OAM