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Review: The Sapphires at HOTA

By Josie Montano & Robert McLachlan

Presented by HIT productions, The Sapphires musical was hosted by HOTA (Home Of The Arts), Gold Coast and held two full length performances, before continuing the show's Australian tour. The show is based on a true story of four Aboriginal sisters, who in the late 60’s toured Vietnam as a singing group to entertain the troupes.

These young Yorta Yorta women from country NSW are discovered at a talent quest and their lives change forever. Dropped into the middle of the Vietnam war with their Manager, they go on a journey where they must battle not only each other but their own demons. This uplifting story, written by Tony Briggs, was inspired by his mother who was one of the original Sapphires.

The stage sets were minimalistic yet effective, with a truck faring as the main prop. A few issues that seemed to break the flow of the narrative, were stage-hands suddenly being too visible and lengthy pauses for set changes. It was delightful to have the live band on stage with the cast throughout the production, and this helped to keep the energy of the show elevated.

Although this is an inspiring story, it was difficult to follow their journey at times because of technical issues. For instance there were sound concerns throughout the production manifesting as loud interference at inappropriate moments and with microphones which obviously had to be turned off due to these problems. This meant at times not only were the lovely vocals inaudible but that the whole production seemed to be more of a dress rehearsal or preview.

Most inspiring was the vivacious Mindy Kwanten who plays Cynthia, she gave a rousing performance and her deadly voice soared. The male cast were all great performers, particularly the character Joe, played by Aljin Abella. His portrayal of the cheeky Vietnamese boy was authentic, energetic and had good characterisation.

This historical drama is a great tribute to our Indigenous arts history and with a little more polish this gem has the potential to sparkle and shine much more brightly.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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