There’s a Welsh word that I’ve heard explained as meaning a ‘homesickness for a home you can never return to’, and that word comes to mind when thinking about Belloo Creative’s new work, Rovers, a two-handed, sixty-minute nostalgic yarn starring Roxanne McDonald and Barbara Lowing and directed by Caroline Dunphy.
Belloo’s intention was to bring together and celebrate the veterans of Australian theatre after twenty-one years apart and place them under the award-winning pen of Katherine Lyall-Watson and the result is a beautiful rambling reunion full of fun and easy charm.
In part autobiographical, the women conjure memories of their artistic, their life’s journey while Lowing encases her story with-in that of her intrepid great-Aunt, Barbara Toy, whose solo journey across the outback of nineteen-fifties Australia must have enchanted the child that would grow into the story-teller before us. The two stories collide in time, converge in the red centre as Toy, a woman whose conquering of the desert may lend itself to other metaphorical struggles in her life at the time, meets up with Jessie a sharp-witted Aboriginal woman who becomes her guide and soul sister. Decades later, Lowing and McDonald were also together in Uluru, under those same stars, connecting as only women at the edge can.
The performance space, temporary for the Brisbane Festival Theatre Republic, was a perfect little dark corner of the world in which to share in this tale. With little props and little needed, a water tank sits centre stage and doubles as Toy’s faithful Land Rover named Pollyanna, and tyres become horses and a long length of marine rope becomes…. well that’s part of an in-joke you’ll have to seek on your own.
McDonald and Lowing slip in and out of form, lowering the fourth-wall one moment and cantering playfully into character the next; the rules and shapes used to make this ‘theatre’ seemingly disappear as if these two characters may have just got up from the audience, in the throws of telling their tale and continued, animated. Indeed, as the audience enters the space they are greeted by a wandering, ruminating McDonald who, with cup in hand, shoots the breeze with whomever as we all wait for the lights the cue. Through-out the piece there are cheeky reminders that this is after all, just a performance.
As young women we look for role models in a world that wants to keep us from knowing just what is possible for our kind. We seek out those who will help us dust open the paths that the world wants to keep concealed. As we age, we hope that we have somehow along the way contributed to passing on that story stick to another generation of non-conforming women, even if by accidental inspiration.
Lowing and McDonald, two old girls reunited, must feel accomplished as they look back at their lives and the examples of strong women that they have become. It’s a bitter-sweet moment when Lowing lays back in the old iron tub, longing up at the stars and regrets nothing but perhaps wishing to taste it all again. A wake, not a funeral, a celebration of life and a life lived just so.
Belloo Creative are well worth keeping track of. A company of woman that bring surprisingly diverse and high quality works to the stage. Check out their website http://www.belloocreative.com or follow on Facebook for updates.
Someone needs to see all the things.