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Review: Tiddas at Belvoir

Review by Carly Fisher


Opening the 2024 Belvoir season and participating in Sydney Festival, Tiddas is a celebration of sisterhood, cultural recognition and ultimately the life that happens whilst we are busy doing other things. In 95 minutes, writer Anita Heiss packs a lot into the script with storylines focusing on friendship, addiction, grief, legacy, commitment to culture, commitment to Mob, motherhood, relationships, growth, self-determination, loss and more. Through these conversations, Heiss has laced a high-brow conversation about the authenticity of Australian storytelling and discussion through literature, as an example, and its commitment to representation.


What works beautifully in this show is that universality of female friendship. Regardless of age, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, etc, for women in the audience, there is a sense of familiarity in the characters on stage - they are the women in your life that you call when you need something, when you want to laugh about something, when you have gossip, when you are in strife, when you need to vent, when you need a dinner buddy…and so on. If you’re really lucky in life, you have a group like the women before us in this play. 


Anita Heiss has adapted her own book, by the same title, into this live performance script. Though rich in detail, the play lacks some substance of character by only living in moments of dialogue, rarely letting us see and feel with the characters in between those moments. To some extent, it is a classic case of telling me rather than showing me and I think that some more time spent realising where the characters were emotionally, outside of what was being said to one another, would have elevated the piece. Additionally, after a long time establishing the rhythm of the show, the climax hits quickly and much too late to really allow time for so many issues to be fleshed out properly, before the resolve. 


The show is billed as a ‘comedy smash hit’ and I must admit, I find this to be misleading in that I think that only focusing on the occasional comedy through the piece significantly undermines the poignancy of the conversation and of the relationships experienced between the characters. There are a lot of heavy themes in this show and though written with a light hand, to consider the show only as a laugh out loud comedy reduces the impact of the important experiences and messages being generously shared with us by a very hard working cast. 


Zoe Rouse has used the Belvoir Upstairs stage to perfection with a beautiful and symbolic set design that felt instantly familiar and welcoming as one entered the theatre. Lined with books, the black box stage felt intimate and warm and was a clever backdrop for a show that moves to so many locations so often throughout the piece. Rouse has a beautifully considered style that I think makes her a designer to watch! 


Where Rouse’s work faltered slightly for me was in the costuming. Heels too high for the actors to convincingly be comfortable performing in, sometimes ill fitting clothing pieces, and a strange choice of when to keep the same outfit through scenes, and when to change…all in all, the costuming didn’t feel nearly as strong as the set design. 


Getting to enjoy a Roxanne McDonald performance is always a privilege and though a supporting role, this was no exception. The experience and charisma McDonald brings to the stage is a joy to experience. McDonald also served as one of the co-directors of the performance, alongside Nadine McDonald-Dowd. Together, the two directors have weaved the story together very nicely, using clever and sophisticated transition states between the many scenes of this play, rather than the dreaded blackout. This decision amplified the flow of the narrative and also of the passing time beautifully. 


As a whole, the cast delivers differently and as such, the scenes don’t seem to flow perhaps as naturally as I wish they would have. Though delivery seems a little disjointed at times, even so, the  heartfelt story shines through. Louise Brehmer as Nadine is a stand out with strong delivery of one liners and a difficult character arc to carry. Perry Mooney is a fabulous Ellen and seems to sit in the character with ease and a certain grace as she glides through the show that makes her someone to watch not just in the scenes before you, but as she progresses through her career too. Lara Croydon as Izzy too shows a lovely sense of character development as the show progresses. 


It’s not a perfect production - it drags at times and occasionally I felt lost the audience around me as we waited for the next part of the show - but it is full of heart, spirit and important messages that are extremely relevant to today’s modern Australian. And any show that portrays the power of female friendships with such spunk, honesty and respect, gets a big yes from me! 

Image Credit: Stephen Wilson Barker

 

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