Review by James Ong
Many poetic self-reflective pieces justifiably dive into the pains and complexities of existing in a community that seems to have little sympathy for melanated folks. Others place a heavy emphasis on the positive, with jubilant pride being the top priority. The well-renowned Mel Ree’s Mother May We finds a (previously unknown to me) Goldilocks zone, where a solemn reflection on genetic trauma and joyous cultural celebration run parallel to each other. That being said, the mixed-genre show is also a passionate highlight of the female experience, showcasing the power and importance that women and mothers have in modern Australia. With that intricate balance struck, Ree underpins her louder than life performance with an authentic heart that is certain to ring true for not only local BIPOC women, but also for a broad theatre audience that values honest and creative voices on their stage. It’s quite clear that Ree has a fervent following, having established herself over many years as an accomplished and intimate wordsmith. The raucous crowd that overflowed the seating bank and stairways of the Griffin Theatre on my chosen night is a testament to loyalty she has garnered. It seems that Ree is very aware of how close a connection she has with her audience, as the poet/performer directly addresses the crowd and thrives on a symbiotic live-show environment. The dynamic also allowed for any of the minor prop or line stumbles to be more endearing than quarrelsome. Ree’s capable hands guide us through a gambit of emotions and personal anecdotes, keeping us magnetically locked in through passionate delivery and a deep care for the audience experience. Plainly put, the tech design and execution is stellar, particularly the visual elements crafted by lighting designer Frankie Clarke and Projection Designer Nema Adel. On the more ambitious side for Griffin shows, the team here manages to pull off a huge range of precarious effects with precision. Abstract, swirling patterns, panning spotlights and deeply vibrant colour bombs are not only a delight for the rods and cones, but are also tastefully executed. The liveliness and delicacy of the design acts to further elevate an already radiant performance and deepen our empathy as we are walked through what can be some quite difficult emotional notes to hit. Intersectionality seems like such a tricky beast to represent honestly for many theatre-makers. For many it may not be a priority and for some it may simply lack nuance - so perhaps instead we should be looking to real voices, real experiences and real people - and with open ears learn the dual truths of inner-conflict and self-love. Mother May We is a thoughtful and sweet hour of poetry, dance and storytelling that is sure to hit home with most anyone.
Image Credit: DefinitelyDefne Photography