The Whisper

45DS The Whisper Greg Fryer and Brodie Murray photo by Emma SalmonAward winning playwright and performer, Brodie Murray (Soul of Possum, Billy’s Choice), has generously shared a treasure with Naarm/Melbourne audiences. The Whisper is a heartfelt story of one Aboriginal family’s journey of strength, survival and doing whatever it takes to protect the ones you love.

Based on a true story from Murray’s own beloved Nan, Lorraine Murray, The Whisper shares the reimagined portrayal of his grandmother’s journey on horse and cart, travelling from Bordertown to Swan Hill to evade authorities in the 1940s.

The play opens with Riley (Brodie Murray) a young, passionate, football fanatic who shares his affection with his brother, Jack (Balla Neba) and his hopes to be reunited with his mum and dad who have been absent for over a year. Jack and Riley have been staying with Nan Rose (Melodie Reynolds-Diarra) and Pop (Greg Fryer), who is out on a sheering run.

As Jack returns home after being absent for three weeks, Nan Rose learns of his unorthodox, mixed-raced relationship with a white girl in town, Annabel. For fear of the repercussions of their relationship and Jack’s safety, Nan Rose makes the ultimate decision, to flee their home in the night on horse and cart and escape the inevitable arrest of her grandson.

The heart of this story is Nan Rose, portrayed by the brilliant, Melodie Reynolds-Diarra (The Dirty Mile, Glorious Bastards). Reynolds-Diarra commands the space with her loving, no-nonsense and fiercely protective nature. Her connection to the text, audience and co-stars was mesmerising to witness.

Greg Fryer (The Sapphires, Wentworth) as Pop, brings a warm, gentle and caring energy to the role. A sense of calm and safety washed through the space whenever he entered a scene. The chemistry between the ensemble was rich and engaging, particularly between the brother duo, Riley and Jack.

Murray and Balla Neba’s (Dance Rites, Soul of Possum) connection was effortless, from their rascal and playful antics to their unyielding loyalty to each other. It was clear there was a mutual respect and care between the cast.

Another highlight of The Whisper was the lighting and sound design, brought to life by Shane Grant. Grant transformed the performance space into a warm and earthy atmosphere.

Accompanied by soundscapes of Willie Wagtails and other wildlife to guide the trajectory of the story and support Reynolds-Dirarra’s powerful monologue. This contrasted excellently with the stark black out and shadow features used to spotlight the Policeman (Fryer) through his confronting arrest updates.

The play ran on a steady 50 minute running time, with an even tempo throughout. This left audiences the right amount of time to process both the playful and uncomfortable moments. At times, scene changes became anticipated and repetitive through the dimming of stage lights. This resulted in some energy drops and loss of momentum between scene changes.

The Whisper is a wonderful evening of rich, indigenous storytelling. Stories that I hope will continue to rise to the surface, that challenge, question and engage Australian audiences.

The Whisper
fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Performance: Tuesday 20 February 2024
Season continues to 25 February 2024
Information and Bookings:

Image: Greg Fryer and Brodie Murray – photo by Emma Salmon

Review: Eleni Vettos