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Anita Heiss' theatre debut canvasses power of sisterhood from an unashamedly Aboriginal perspective

Rachel Stringfellow -

Acclaimed Wiradjuri author Anita Heiss has dipped her toes into the world of playwriting, adapting her novel Tiddas at La Boite Theatre in Meaanjin (Brisbane).

Heiss' playwriting debut is grounded in place, time, and the reverence for all that changes and transforms within sisterhood.

Five tiddas (sisters) from Mudgee find the balance between their own personal stories, to unveil and uncover a reckoning of different truths.

Packing a punch, Tiddas touches upon themes of pregnancy, loss, culture, career, fertility issues, and the frustration and acceptance of who we are not only to ourselves but one another.

An overarching edge is the centring of Aboriginal writers, and the type of rhetoric that accompanies push back from white people when their voices aren't being centred.

While Heiss is the playwright backbone, Tiddas boasts a bustling and creative team including director Nadine McDonald-Dowd (Yuwi).

However, the two also acknowledge former creative producer at La Boite, Sanja Simic, in bringing Tiddas to life.

Heiss describes Tiddas as one of "contemporary sisterhood, the challenges of life-long friendships, the unconditional support we have for the women we care about most in our lives."

True to word, there is an injection of trusted intimacy, binding the audience and cast members together in this locative and experiential setting.

Wider metaphors and commentary on the contemporary landscape of Australia's everyday communities are woven throughout, but only if you are listening.

While the relevance of each moment seems to be centred by its complete humanness.

No smoke and mirrors here, Tiddas is deeply rooted in the real with a particular point to stop reducing people to the labels.

A special mention to the cast in their delivery of this, each one bringing a different essence, and as deep and riveting as the other.

Shakira Clanton (playing Xanthe) a proud Wongatha, Yamatji and Noongar, Gitja yorga woman from Whadjuk Noongar Boodjar.

Chenoa Deemal (playing Ellen) and proud Thiithaarr Warra woman of the Guugu Yimithirr tribe of Hopevale.

Phoebe Grainer (playing Izzy) a Kuku Djungan, Muluridji, Wakaman, Tagalaka, Kunjen, Warrgamay and Yindinji woman.

Sean Dow a proud Gungandji-Birigubba man, whose cool switching between playing Richard, Asher, Spencer, Craig and Rory didn't go unnoticed.

Roxanne McDonald (playing Mum/Noon) a proud Mandandanji, Wagan and Darambal woman.

As well as Louise Brehmer (playing Nadine) and Anna McMahon (playing Veronica).

Set wise, Tiddas captured the Brisbane flare, the lilac of the Jacaranda which line the Brisbane River on Turrbal and Yuggera Country, marked the entrance and final moments of the production.

And while a bright and modern set reminded me of many weekends spent trawling IKEA, the busyness of it all was balanced out by an endearingly homely essence.

Each nook that was crafted out, served to balance smooth scene transitions.

Featured at La Boite Theatre, Queensland Performing Arts Centres and Brisbane Festival there are only a few more opportunities to see this play.

However, a last-minute matinee performance has been added for any patrons wishing to go on Saturday at its conclusion.

Tiddas is a reminder of the binding force women have across time and place.

Story by Rachel Stringfellow


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