Sydney, Sydney Fringe Festival 2014

The Matilda Waltz

0 Comments 09 October 2014

One hundred years, five generations of Australian women, one song. Directed by Sam Thomas, The Matilda Waltz is a production of short stories that captures the essence of the Australian spirit and transposes its lyrical landscape into words and movement.

Loveable larrikin, Banjo Patterson himself, finds a way of narrating generations of women that traverses a fine line between solemnity and sobriety. The room at New Theatre reverberates as the lyrical commentary of Banjo Paterson and Russell Drysdale lead the audience’s experience. In saddling their fanciful prose over seventy minutes, Sydney playwright Deborah Mulhall shapes a journey through time and family ties. The stories follow the love lives of siblings Vera and Ida Templeton in 1894 and their offspring, five daughters.

During the course of the play we are seized by stories which catapult us around the world from Outback NSW, to France, Vietnam and our very own Sydney. Despite such global travels, the lack of contact with Indigenous characters or later-migrants is a concern especially considering the excess in which Australian historiography fixates on white European settlement.

The obstinacy of the characters we encounter attract and repel our own egos. The contrasting identities of William, the disheartened stockman turned soldier and charming Tom, the American GI who meet in WWI, embody the perils of unabashed machoism at the turn of the century. The juxtaposition of these damaged personalities with dance and movement balanced the bravado, and surprisingly brings out a interesting element of vulnerability.

The female characters moved effortlessly, carrying the untold stories of the women in Banjo Patterson’s life. It was however confusing at some moments as the same actors emerged playing different roles. Banjo’s wife and Banjo’s secret lover portray binary desires of longing and loss in their performances. In that vein, dedicated nurse Milly and fearless photographer Maria are exceptional in bringing to life the evolving challenges and aspirations of women in a rapidly changing Australia.

While there was not a jolly jumbuck in sight in The Matilda Waltz, the joyousness of the performances resonated and captured the audience. This ensemble work showed dedication and a durability suitable for a travelling show. One to watch out for in the future. 

Reviewed by Eliza Berlage.


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