Venue: Ensemble Theatre (Kirribilli NSW), May 9 – Jun 4, 2022
Playwright: Brittanie Shipway
Director: Ursula Yovich
Cast: Nazaree Dickerson, Joel Granger, Lisa Maza, Paula Nazarski, Brittanie Shipway
Images by Prudence Upton
Renee has an accidental pregnancy, and because she lives in modern day Australia, obtaining a termination does not become too big an ordeal. The incident however, does prompt her to reflect on issues of motherhood, family and ancestry. Thinking about where one comes from, and what one is to leave behind, is an important piece in the process of maturation. In Brittanie Shipway’s A Letter for Molly, we watch Renee consider the possibility of motherhood in her future, by looking back at the three generations of women before, and all their bonds as mothers and daughters.
The play is a tenderly funny take on family dynamics. Renee’s Indigenous background is a very charming influence on the show’s style of dialogue. The women speak with extraordinary vibrancy, but deeper issues pertaining to our history of colonialism are only briefly hinted at. Those of us who do not share their heritage, can make our own interpretations, should we choose to do so, about the repercussions of being Black in Australia, simply by observing the lives of the women in A Letter for Molly. We gradually become aware that none of them owe us any expositions, about the trauma and marginalisation they may or may not experience. The fact that some have formed any such expectations of Black writers, is further evidence of how colonisation operates in our artistic landscape. A Letter for Molly is storytelling on one woman’s own terms, and that is always a powerful statement to make.
Director Ursula Yovich brings a light touch, to this story of motherhood through the generations. These are consequential matters that are being discussed, albeit treated very gently. Yovich’s approach is one that feels distinctly simple, but there is not a second that passes, without a sense of real emotional investment being dedicated, to the honouring of motherhood.
In the role of Renee, is playwright Shipway herself, who brings an immense sincerity to the stage. Lisa Maza is flawless with her comedy, and a wonderfully captivating presence as Mimi, the most senior of these women. Next in line is Darlene, played by Paula Nazarski who is as capable at delivering jokes, as she is at delivering breath-taking poignancy. Then comes Linda, with the exuberant Nazaree Dickerson offering gleeful joy to her audience, at every given opportunity. The hilarious Joel Granger plays a wide range of support roles, demonstrating admirable commitment to his craft, and an undeniable knack for humour of a more heightened kind.
The closeness between mothers and daughters, is portrayed with exceptional verisimilitude in A Letter for Molly. We believe all the relationships, and we understand precisely the choices Renee makes. In 2022 it is still refreshing to see a woman take control over her destiny, instead of relenting without questioning, to tradition and convention. No woman should need to subscribe to any notion or definition of what a valid woman is. We are infinitely diverse, and it is that freedom to be, that we should forever embrace.