Directed by Nicholas Collett, That Daring Australian Girl certainly sounds daring, if not a little mad. Joanne Hartstone’s performance of Muriel Matters, the South Australian suffragette, was not only captivating but inspiring. Telling the story of a ‘new woman’ and the fight for women’s rights in England, Harstone crams into one hour a breadth of history and knowledge that has taken years to collect.
A one-woman-act, Hartstone demonstrated her skills at elocution and, like Muriel Matters, her strong belief and support for women’s rights both then, and now. It was amazing to see the entire audience beholden to this one intense woman as she delivered us into the past and carried us along Muriel Matters’s journey not only from Australia to England, but to joining the Women’s Freedom League, her lecturing tours of Australia, and her bid for office.
The versatile costumes of Nikki Fort were well suited to the performance and era, cleverly using a variety of hats and coats to dictate a change of place or situation. The production design of Tom Kitney ensured that Hartstone was not just using her voice and her expression but her surroundings to draw us into her tale as her trunk becomes not just a trunk, but a horse and carriage and a flying dirigible.
The story of the suffragettes is not as well known as it should be and it is likely that the names of women such as Muriel Matters will one day be lost. What we do know of her though, is that she certainly is one daring Australian woman.
One of the greatest parts of any show at Fringe is the moment when the artist realises their show has been a success. We were not cheated of this moment tonight as Hartstone received a well-earned standing ovation for her endeavours. I am always amazed at how a single person can perform solo and achieve such a level of engagement from their audience as Hartstone did tonight, it is awe-inspiring and a wonderful reminder of the power of the spoken word.
Words by Kayla Gaskell
That Daring Australian Girl is playing at Holden Street Theatres from the 7th-11th, 13th-15th, and 17th-18th of March as well as appearing at Stirling Fringe on the 9th and 12th. Tickets are available here.