The scene was established the moment you walked into The Space Theatre.
Filled with orchards and peacock feathers strung from the balcony as well as the iconic peacock chairs from the era of the 70s sitting near the front of the stage.
A beautiful setting for an incredible show.
The crowd was full of baby boomers, and some youngins like myself, ready for the music of the night…a celebration of the music by the women in Australia during the 50s, 60s and 70s.
We first saw a projected video of Merle Thornton and Rosalie Bognor who famously chained themselves to the bar at the Regatta Hotel, Brisbane in 1965, not only to gain women’s right to drink at a bar with men, but to bring to light the real issues women were facing at the time – equal pay, equal treatment and a revision of the sexist laws that plagued Australia.
The very talented Amelia Ryan, of Simply the Breast and The Breast is Yet to Come fame, cleverly brought to life the unsung women and music of Australia from a very repressed time, in a Frank Ford commissioned work.
With the powerhouse vocals of Libby O’Donovan, these women tell the story of what it took for our female singers of the 1960s to be heard and recognised.
Utilising an incredible soundtrack from our archives, including the sounds of Little Pattie with ‘Surfer Boy’, with footage of the infamous Maroubra Stomp, Australia’s first pop princess Noeleen Batley’s ‘Barefoot Boy’ sung to perfection by O’Donovan, rock chick Betty McQuade’s ‘Midnight Bus’ to Dinah Lee’s interactive ‘Hello Baby’.
Multimedia projections took us back throughout the evening, and displayed all these groundbreaking women’s record covers.
Ryan and O’Donovan’s research took them to the Australian Women’s Weekly and the current advertising at the time; Ford Pills to make you look more attractive to your husband. Or in Lynne Randell’s case – addicted to amphetamines.
I absolutely loved the medley to highlight the ludacris lyrics and songs the men were singing about women at the time. ‘My Sharona’, ‘Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon’ – like seriously, how did we not pick up on this before?!
The jewel in the crown was O’Donovan’s rendition of ‘It’s a Man’s World’ – absolutely exquisite from start to finish! Close your eyes, and Ryan’s voice is the epitome of the era – the sweet, saccharine, innocence mixed with undertones of folk rock. However, Wendy Saddington’s ‘Mr Backlash’ brought the house down in raucous appreciation.
The show was an amazing homage to the women in song in Australia in the 1960s with the female anthem ‘I Am Woman’ to finish.
Such a nostalgic and important message to share in a thrilling and passionate collaboration between two of Australia’s most celebrated and talented Cabaret artists.
Sensational women, sensational show.
Frank Ford would be proud.
Happy theatre travels…
This review also features on the Theatre Travels website – www.theatretravels.org