Photography by Max Baume
I am not a fan of period drama or colonialism. Silver Tongue, by Nadia Bracegirdle, encompasses both of these things. By some magic, it very nearly overcomes them.
Set in the wake of the rum rebellion in early 19th century Australia, we are told the story of Moll, a young woman who is searching for the man responsible for her mother’s death. Moll is a fierce character, and the way in which she recounts her tale to her cellmate is an incredibly effective means of conveying narrative. A stellar cast aids this. Each member of the supporting cast play their varying characters splendidly, with a standout performance by Eloise Westwood as Moll’s deceased mother. Opening night jitters led to some unfortunate line loss from both Alex Smiles and Lizzie Westbrook, playing Jack and Moll respectively, however both played their characters fairly well otherwise.
The costumes of Silver Tongue are fantastic, in a way replacing the set as a means to root us firmly in 1809 Sydney Cove. Direction of the piece, at the hand of Bennett Sheldon, creates an authentic representation of the setting through the use of movement, and a lively atmosphere is maintained throughout the show’s hour long run time. Every scene and moment of the play is timed perfectly, with moments that risked turning stale interrupted at just the right moment. In short, we are never bored.
The thing that stopped me properly enjoying Silver Tongue was the racism. The script is tight, and probably one of the better student written pieces to emerge from SUDS this year. It is obvious that a lot of time, care and research was put into this piece, which is why I am so incredibly disappointed that the two mentions of indigenous Australians in the entire production are racist ones. The first, a suggestion that Moll ‘go native’ raised a couple of eyebrows around me. The second, mentioning that the ‘natives’ caused a lot of trouble, elicited a couple of gasps. There really is no excuse for the only representation of indigenous Australians to be one of an outdated and racist stereotype, especially when the rest of the play is executed so damned well.
All in all, a quick google search and a representation of indigenous Australia that isn’t boring and racist is all that is needed to make this show a standout one.
For more information on the shows playing during the SUDS Summer Season click here.