FRINGE THEATRE – That Daring Australian Girl – Holden Street Theatres – 4.5K

scaled_That_Daring_Australian_Girl_imageAlexander Ewers

Muriel matters. The story of Adelaide’s own born and bred feminist, suffragette and social warrior, Muriel Matters, is one which should never be consigned to history. With a message undimmed by time and more topical than ever, “That Daring Australian Girl” proves both compelling theatre and a powerfully moving ode to the life and achievements of a woman who can only be described as remarkable.

Courtesy of director/performer/producer Joanne Hartstone, “That Daring Australian Girl” is an autobiographical study in the life of Muriel Matters, a name that ought to be more widely recognized and celebrated especially in this her hometown. Charting her meteoric rise from talented elocutionist and stage performer, to demagogue at the heart of the battle for female suffrage in London, Hartstone takes us on a journey through 12 gripping chapters in this woman’s life. The stages of Melbourne’s theatres, the galleries of the Houses of Parliament, London, the torture chambers of suffragette imprisonment – all come alive under the magic of Joanne’s touch. This is by no means though, simply a factual chronology. It is Matters reincarnated. This is Hartstone’s real achievement. That Daring Australian Girl is an intensely personal journey of self-discovery and self-actualisation, in which the audience cannot help but become emotionally invested, and against which injustices past and present are thrown into stark relief.

For 70 minutes, Joanne Hartstone holds sway, delivering a heart-on-sleeve performance encompassing orated recitations, quotes relived verbatim, and even a couple touching vocal numbers. Testament to the work and dedication of this burgeoning and increasingly acclaimed theatre practitioner, the detail and historicity of both plot and personal insights are extraordinary, contributing to the sense of authenticity. But it is the emphasis on revealing the intimacies of Matters’ hopes and fears that truly elevates this beyond the quotidian. This sensitive portrayal paints not just an idealist’s picture of firebrand heroism, but captures the human dimension, that reality of emotions and doubts and griefs that define the element of humanity behind true greatness. Yes, Muriel the heroine, Muriel the warrior, but speaking volumes more, Muriel the woman!!

That Daring Australian Girl is a show that spotlights just how far we have come as a society, but also how much further is yet to go. In an era defined by the #MeToo movement and increased attention on gender inequity, the tale of this pioneer of female emancipation is a timely reminder of both the need to continue the fight, and of the formidable force that is the empowered woman. Muriel Matters is a true feminist icon to which every person, male and female, young and old, can look for inspiration, for her legacy is universal and her life a cause for all to celebrate!

Kryztoff Rating 4.5K

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