FRINGE THEATRE – The Loneliest Woman – Star Theatres – Star Theatre Two – 4K

By Fiona Talbot – Leigh

Local playwright Peter Maddern draws on the exploits and adventures of Sir George Hubert Wilkins, an Australian explorer who in 1931 made an unsuccessful attempt to travel under arctic ice in a submarine.

The play takes place mainly in the Wilkins home with the audience being privy to dialogue exchanged between Wilkins’s wife Suzanne and William Hearst; a very powerful media mogul of the day who financed her husband’s trip in the hope of having a hero come home whose story he could then splash across the front pages of his newspaper for more sales.

However rather than the story being about Hearst or Wilkins, Maddern has instead chosen to focus his narrative on Suzanne Wilkins. We are let it into her world in a very intimate way as she shows what life is like to be the wife of an explorer who is away for long periods of time, how she fills her days in a society where independent women are often frowned upon and how she handles herself when pushed too far by Hearst. Suzanne was already an accomplished singer and actor before she met and married Wilkins and it is that independent streak which shines throughout the performance.

Suzanne Wilkins is perfectly portrayed by Michelle Nightingale who brought such grace and poise to her role befitting that of an elegant 1930’s woman. Her speaking voice as that of her singing was beautiful, crisp and clear. She offered such a relaxed and subtle tone to the role but also played it with an underlying strength which came to the fore in a most remarkable way. Her overall performance was quite compelling to watch.

Adrian Barnes was more than up to the task playing William Hearst. Slightly regal in his portrayal, it was interesting to try and work out his relationship with Suzanne as well as to decipher the nuances between the two.

The script cleverly called for interspersion’s by Don Iveson, a reporter who gave great insight into Wilkins’s story. Played by the amiable Mark Healy, his realistic portrayal of an American reporter along with his great accent, added to the already intriguing story line.

Maddern’s wonderful script flowed beautifully throughout and in the hands of such gifted performers, makes this a show to see. Maddern but scratches the surface of this most interesting man and opens up our curiosities about Wilkins and his affable wife. This is a fabulous South Australian production and a telling of a part of our history which has been very well received.


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