The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow has been a long time coming for the First Nations people of Australia.
In the 1950s, housing deemed adequate for Aboriginals was delivered under an assimilation policy that saw the dislocation of Aboriginal people from traditional lands. The promise of equality that came with the successful yes vote of the 1967 referendum was never fully realised. And the Uluru Statement From The Heart came to a heartbreaking halt.
Jane Harrison’s play Rainbow’s End finds a trio of women pondering the conceit of the pot of gold idea sixty years ago in a sparring match between cynicism and aspiration.
Three generations, Nan Dear, her daughter Gladys and her granddaughter, Delores, known as Dolly, share a humpy on the flood prone flats just outside of Shepparton, Victoria. It is 1954 and the freshly minted monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is touring Australia. Gladys has worked herself up into a Windsor knot over the royal visit, dressing up in her Sunday best to get a glimpse as she but passes by. Nan Dear, jaded and cynical, with more years under white rule, is a Windsor not. Dolly seems ambivalent.
Into their sphere comes Encyclopedia Britannica salesman, Errol Fisher, who takes a genuine shine to Dolly. Nan Dear taunts him as Cyclops, and discounts the encyclopedia for having a white biased and paltry entry for Aboriginals.
Lily Shearer invests Nan Dear with a no nonsense world weary laconic presence and delivery, a nice counterpoint to Dalara Williams’ Gladys, conscious of past and present prejudices but with an optimism for her daughter, Dolly.
Phoebe Grainer’s Dolly reflects that optimism, her vital, youthful enthusiasm, albeit sifted through the history of her people, infectious and endearing. She is perfectly matched by Lincoln Vickery as Errol, the well meaning and sensitive but culturally ignorant encyclopedia salesman. Frederick Copperwaite delivers a sextet of functionaries and dysfunctionaries.
Melanie Liertz production design is an exquisite exercise in evocative and ingenious economy, a corrugated shanty among the cork trees that transforms into a prefab dwelling in a flip of the hand and a blink of the eye. Karen Norris' lighting design is similarly evocative with the light playing off the trees in a dazzling dapple depicting diurnal and seasonal change in the temporal, and the inner emotional world of the characters.
Rainbow’s End is a much gentler presentation of the Aboriginal experience than City of Gold, which is playing just up the road from this space at Griffin, but it is, nevertheless a compelling companion piece, both plays urging White Australia to listen and to learn with a view to a positive progress, one nation under a groove.
Darlinghurst Theatre Company in association with Moogahlin Performing Arts presents
by Jane Harrison
Director Liza-Mare Syron
Eternity Playhouse | Darlinghurst Theatre Company, 39 Burton St. Darlinghurst
Dates: 10 August – 1 September 2019