We went to see The Sovereign Wife at the Southbank Theatre last night. What a journey! Part historical documentary, part parody and part mallet smashing comedy a committed troupe of actors from the Melbourne Theatre Company performed the tortuous tale of Moira O’Flaherty, an Irish immigrant who with her husband, Spud, arrived in the male dominated Ballarat goldfields to make their fortune. Look away you could not as Moira tumbled from being a god fearing wife to a poverty stricken young mother thrown on her own resources. Against a backdrop of political upheaval, social turmoil, and cultural clash Moira swore that she would conquer the country around her but at what cost? This melange of Australian history provided the perfect stage for the actors to tear away Moira’s femininity, the love for her husband, her morality and perhaps even her sanity.
The story was told in three acts with a diverse range of actors playing multiple roles. Moira herself was portrayed by three different actors. She was introduced to us a wide eyed innocent, pregnant and in love (Genevieve Giuffre). After a dangerous liaison with the surprising and sometimes barbed, sometimes silver tongued Mr Yim (Peter Paltos) she re-appeared in Act Two driven and dominant convincingly and disarmingly portrayed by a male actor (Ash Flanders). In the final Act Moira was played by another male actor (Jason di Santis) as the burdens of her life consumed her.
How the actors succeeded in maintaining continuity throughout this hysterical riot with the same character played by different actors, gender mixing and cross dressing I do not know but succeed they did. It was an assault to the senses and it was a success. Bravo! Brava!