Left - Anni and Maude Davey
Pink, as they say, is the universal colour of love. And there was a whole lot of pink and whole lot of love on display at the opening night of Accolade Productions’ new piece of musical theatre The Pink Twins. Never have I seen such a fascinating opening night crowd as the “twinnies” of Brisbane came out in force (and in pink) to celebrate the lives and charitable works of two remarkable local women.
Written and directed by Sue Rider, The Pink Twins is a celebration, not only of ‘twinning’, but also of faith, difference and compassion. Through song and movement it explores the lives and good works of Brisbane legends Dorothy* and Moyia O’Brien, identical twins who, among their many achievements, founded the Sunshine Welfare and Remedial Association (SWARA).
Fittingly enough the O’Brien sisters are played by twin performers Anni and Maude Davey. They both give marvelous, magical performances. I don’t know what the O’Brien sisters are like in real life, and director Rider has stressed that The Pink Twins is a fictionalized account of their lives, but I cannot see how they would be failed to be delighted by the Davey sisters’ joyous, sensitive evocations.
They are beautifully supported by twin singers Heather and Marjorie Michael who give glorious voice to music by nationally recognized composer John Rogers. Rogers said that he relished the opportunity to explore the ways in which twins voices are the same yet different – a major theme of the piece as a whole. The arrangements are playful and, as Rider has been quoted as saying, slightly bent – like the twins themselves.
Dancer turned actor Dan Crestani moves effortlessly through a number of roles, most notably Dorothy and Moyia’s intense, spiritual mother. The role is a crucial one. It was their mother who instilled in the twins, or “twinnies” as she called them, the idea that anything is possible if you only embrace the notion of faith.
It was also their mother who controversially introduced them to Indian spiritual guru Sathya Sai Baba. The subject of the twins’ connection to this alternative faith is sensitively touched on by Rider and avoids reference to ugly public claims by a former SWARA manager suggesting that SWARA was a dangerous cult.
Rider makes it clear that their involvement with Sai Baba’s group had nothing to do with cult mentality and evertyhing to do with its close adherence to their own ideas about the transformative powers of love and happiness.
The fine performances are supported by a wonderfully shambolic choir made up of SWARA clients. Rider had originally planned to use footage of SWARA clients. I’m pleased that she chose to involve them in the live performance. Their presence lends the piece soulful authenticity and highlights the importance of Dorothy and Moyia’s work.
The Pink Twins is a real triumph for everyone involved – particularly writer/director Sue Rider for whom the project has been a real labour of love. Any treatment of the O’Brien sisters’ lives could have easily fallen into the realm of “rose coloured” sentiment but Rider refuses to sanitize her subjects or their lives.
Instead what she gives us is a fast-paced, witty, lyrical and magical portrait of real women, not saints or worse, quaint oddballs.
I came away from The Pink Twins feeling spiritually invigorated and very much “loved-up.” A sentiment which no doubt would be approved by its subjects.
* Dorothy O’Brien passed away in 2004.
QPAC and Queensland Music Festival present
An Accolade Production
The Pink Twins
by Sue Rider
Venue: Cremorne Theatre, QPAC
Dates: Wed 22 July – Sat 1 August
Times: Wed to Sat 7.30pm, Tue 6.30pm.
Matinees: Wed 30 July 11am, Sat 25 July & Sat 1 August 1.30pm
Tickets: Full $29 - $39 Conc $19 - $29
Bookings: 136 246 | qtix.com.au