Review By Sam Barson Seven time grand slam winner Evonne Goolagong is widely known as one of the most decorated sportspeople in Australian history, spending over a decade taking on opponents from all over the world on the tennis court, met with much success and glory. The success on the court was paralleled by a life of resilience, struggle and personal/cultural growth and discovery off the court. Andrea James' Sunshine Super Girl provides audiences with an incredibly entertaining, moving and inspiring portrait of this icon, the story epic and cinematic in scope. The play impressively manages to touch upon all the major (and many just as important minor moments) in just over 90 minutes, the action on stage played alongside a series of deeply engaging design elements that definitively enhanced the storytelling. The cast were led from the front by Tuuli Narkle, who as Goolagong, gives one of the most charismatic, mesmerising, complex performances I have seen on stage in some time. Narkle was perfectly supported by an ensemble cast, each playing a wide variety of characters that circled in and around Goolagong's life. Each cast member's strengths and energy were suitably different, yet all of them being equally as important and influential in holding up the performance. Perhaps the most impressive of the supporting team were Karen Norris and Mic Gruchy's respective lighting and video media designs. The highlight being each time the stage transformed it's appearance to portray the instantly recognisable grand slam courts. The ability to do so was obviously made possible by Romanie Harper's tennis court set design. The design allowed the Sydney Town Hall to transform itself into a Rod Laver Arena of sorts, with audiences in tiered seating viewing the action from both sides of the stage. This was not only a nice touch due to who the play's central character was, but was also helpful in allowing the audience to feel as though they were part of the constantly revolving and shifting action. Unfortunately some of the scene transitions were slow and messy, leading to several moments of awkward stillness, but the overriding magic of the performance allowed for these moments to not distract too much. A must see for tennis lovers, and those interested in how one incredible woman can fit amongst and influence decades of cultural and social shifts. It becomes clear within minutes of the opening lines of dialogue that this is definitely way more than a story about tennis, or even just one tennis player.
Sunshine Super Girl is playing at Sydney Town Hall from 8-17th January. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office on 02 8248 6500.
Photos Supplied by Syd Fest