Written and performed by Mel Ree
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
SBW Stables Theatre
28 September – 8 October
How do you heal in a land that doesn’t reflect you? How can you learn to love yourself when the person you are, came from the person you hated? What if this person is your own mother? These are some of the many questions that Mel Ree raised in her poetic performance of Mother May We.
In sitting down to write this review on the production, I stared at the computer’s blank page, the curser blinking mockingly as I pondered how to put into words my connection with this piece. The truth is, there was a lot that I just didn’t connect to, and that’s okay. In fact, through Ree conjuring up this conundrum, I felt compassion as an outsider, and found myself relating to her journey of discovery.
Mother May We delved deep into Ree’s mind and her heart as the daughter of a black mother and a descendant of witches – not in the pagan sense as we know witches, but in the traditional Polynesian culture. Ree placed her poetic skillset front and centre throughout the production with the text dripping in metaphor and simile as she explored her own anguish, trauma and intergenerational pain stemming from her relationship with her mother.
Lighting designer Frankie Clarke harnessed a kaleidoscope of colours to reflect the many facets of Ree’s story. A moment where Ree stood awash in a turquoise blue with three individual down spotlights of pink offered a visual feast for the eyes. Projection by Nema Adel allowed for a mystical aspect to extenuate Ree’s script and take on shapes that offered mystifying images; a floating full moon drifted eerily across the stage to symbolise Ree’s motif of the power in her spirituality.
With a performance background in slam poetry and writing, Ree harnessed this strength to present an avant-garde piece of theatre that breaks beyond a simple autobiographical telling of her life. The piece felt like a larger-than-life poetry evening. Scanning through the crowd I saw audience members clicking, nodding, agreeing and resonating with the power in Ree’s words. Ree fed off this energy and brought sass and honesty in multiple key moments of her story, showing power in her truth and also having fun with her identity.
Mother May We is a poetic exploration of healing
The only downside was that the production lost its fluidity and cohesion. Whilst the relaxed atmosphere allowed me to engage with her words, I felt that Ree shied away from the raw potential that her words could have shown. There were moments of first night bumps, which were made too obvious and detracted from keeping us glued into the world Ree was creating. With Ree herself admitting that she has time to improve the flow, I felt that she needed to trust that we were with her for the ride instead of checking to make sure.
What I most fell in love with throughout Mother May We was the moments that I became lost in Ree’s words. Images like, “black like broken promises” and “too black for freedom” felt like a degustation for the ears. Ree’s joke about burning incense stating, “If white Byron Bay women are burning this, you know it’s stolen” had a resounding laugh. I found myself becoming increasingly involved in Ree’s joy as well as her anger, and the intrigue that it sparked in wanting to know more about the diaspora of people in my own sphere as well as my own background.
Mother May We is a poetic exploration of healing, a unique look at an individual’s culture and embodies the essence of inner turmoil. Harnessing some of the juiciest language you’ll hear on an independent stage, Mel Ree’s debut solo show is not without some fine tuning but is ultimately a success in exploring a life some are unfamiliar with, and others are longing to return to.
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Writer and Performer Mel Ree
Lighting Designer Frankie Clarke
Projection Designer Nema Adel
Sound Designer Steven Khoury
Movement Choreographer Fetu Taku
Dramaturg Jackson Used
Stage Manager Natalie Low
Producer Bec Annetts
Publicist Sean Landis
Production Manager Saint Clair
Production Assistant Defne
SBW Stables Theatre – 10 Nimrod Street, Darlinghurst
DATES: Wednesday 28 September – Saturday 8 October
PERFORMANCE TIMES: Monday to Saturday at 7pm; Saturday at 1pm.
Griffin acknowledges the generosity of the Seaborn, Broughton & Walford Foundation in allowing it the use of the SBW Stables Theatre rent free, less outgoings, since 1986.
Griffin Theatre Company is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body; and the NSW Government through Create NSW.
This production is supported by City of Sydney.
‘Mother May We’ by Mel Ree is Griffin’s second Griffin Lookout production for 2022. Griffin Lookoutprovides Sydney’s most exciting independent theatremakers with a season at Griffin as well as producing and artistic support from the Griffin team.