In the midst of convict ships arriving each week from Britain, a different cargo leaves for Australia. On board are 287 single and free immigrant women enticed by promises of a better life. What waits for them at sea will determine their survival. What waits for them in Sydney will determine their success.
Writer, Helen Begley, brings the worlds of contemporary theatre, Australian Folk Music and Academia together, with a script that emerged from the work of Australian historian, Dr Liz Rushen.
Her original songs trace their lineage back to the folk songs of early immigrants through the parlours and music halls of 19th Century Sydney to the stages of contemporary Australian folk festivals. The result is Musical Theatre in the Australian vernacular.
The women’s story is nationally significant, the execution, spare and essential. Directed by Ruby Rees, Actors Penny Larkins and Carly Ellis portray thirteen characters between them. Three musicians, Kylie Morrigan (Violin), Penelope Swales (Whistles) and Helen Begley (Guitars) are tasked with performing seventeen songs and ninety minutes of theatre.
Voyage is an alternative story of Mateship. Without sentimentality, it champions the kind of staunch female friendship that fosters resilience and endurance and maintains hope and humour in the face of hostility.
Through this lens it asks audiences to reflect on their attitudes to women, migration, identity, colonisation and racism and questions whether the attitudes of the 19th Century are still mirrored in contemporary Australia.
The show recognises and acknowledges the devastation of colonisation on First Nations People, in particular, First Nations Women. Guidance and knowledge has been included from Aboriginal
consultant and Wiradjuri woman, Nola Turner-Jensen.
Through multiple knowledge sharing experiences, Nola showed the team how to navigate this terrain and anchor the story in ancient and cultural truth. She contributes script edits that reflect Indigenous women’s grief and loss of culture, land and life as a result of colonisation.
In the last 12 months Voyage has received funding from the City of Melbourne to develop the script with dramaturg, Meta Cohen (queer composer and recent graduate of VCA’s dramaturgy MA).
The development period conducted through the Melbourne Covid lockdown resulted in Voyage being chosen as one of six pieces that have been placed on the VCE Drama Playlist for 2021.
fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season: 14 – 23 May 2021 (preview: 13 May)
For more information, visit: www.voyagemusical.com for details.
Image: Carly Ellis and Penny Larkins feature in Voyage (supplied)