At the Crossroads by Jan Cornall.Women on a Shoestring directed by Camilla Blunden at the Street Theatre Studio, 8.30 pm February 18 – 28, 1998. Professional.
This is Australian theatre of the best traditional kind: entertaining in a slightly larrikin way, encouraging the audience to clap, cheer and whistle, while also eliciting silent appreciation of the reality of people's lives in the bush. A travelling show like the melodramas and music halls of last century, with a touch of Dad and Dave, At the Crossroads has a long touring future in the Northern Territory first up, with the other states to follow.
Justine Saunders plays Bernice, an educated middle class person whose Aboriginal mother was denied her rightful inheritance. In an unexpected twist of history, Bernice becomes the legal owner of the land at the Crossroads "in the middle of nowhere".
Alice (Chrissie Shaw) is a traditionalist farmer's wife: great organiser in dust, flood and fire. Liliana (Maria De Marco), banana farmer, has all the social ebullience of her original Italian village. Charmaine (Julie Ross) is educated and green, married her farmer for love and works for a sustainable future on the land.
Now that Beryl is dead, though not forgotten - she was the President and Secretary and everything else of the CWA, the Bush Fire Brigade, the local Red Cross and all the hundred or so other organisations run by country women - who should now be elected President at this Extraordinary General Meeting? Through song, story and dance we find out the truth behind each candidate, take part in the vote, and discover the power of the deceased Beryl.
At the Crossroads is polished theatre from a longstanding, very experienced team, designed to be toured to city and country venues around Australia. Issues are confronted through the women's stories, gathered in research across the nation, not in an ideological way but with humanity, humour and sensitivity to how complex are the questions of land ownership, ecological degradation, love, loyalty and spirituality. The perfect antidote to the Pauline Hanson black spectre view of history for country and city audiences alike. Not to be missed.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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