Elaine Crombie seems nervous. Not unusual for a Melbourne Fringe performance. But given that this powerhouse woman has been on stage and screen for more than 20 years, the question is why?

Most likely because she bears her soul in her latest show Janet’s Vagrant Love. This is a raw and revealing expose of the darker corners of Crombie’s life. 

Crombie is better known for lighting up the stage and screen in productions such as the film Top-End Wedding, and the acclaimed Belvoir St Theatre’s Barbara and the Camp Dogs. She is a proud Pitjantara Warrigmai and South Sea Islander. 

So, what throws her slightly off balance? It’s one thing to act in a powerful role. It’s quite another to bear your soul in your own production. Hence, no doubt, the nerves.

Janet's Vagrant Love is promoted as a work 20 years in the making. Crombie shares her truth telling stories of childhood trauma and the struggles of raising your Blak men as a single mum doing the best she can for her boys. She integrates stories with songs, both are powerful and moving. As an indigenous woman, her show speaks volumes. 

Its power lies in the raw and intimate stories, and the powerful songs. The comedic interludes are somewhat jarring. This show is no joke. It’s the story of a woman’s rise above school room cruelty, violation, and the ever-present unpredictability of racism. Janet’s Vagrant Love is powerful, confronting, sad and yet ultimately triumphant. Crombie’s voice cannot be silenced.

And what a voice it is! Songs such as “Will you wait for me” and “Oh Brother” soar. And they make strong statements. This is a show that powerful, and it is also a call to action. Crombie’s stories highlight the fact that indigenous people still experience cruel and vicious racism in this country. This is theatre at its best, highlighting issues that cannot be swept under the carpet. Telling true stories. And the truth, sadly is, that racism remains an everyday experience for non-white Australians.

This beautiful, gutsy and talented performer has not bared her soul in vain. Her moving show leaves an indelible stamp on her audience, and educates in a way that is not easily forgotten.

Event details

2022 Melbourne Fringe Festival
Janet’s Vagrant Love
by Elaine Crombie

Director Gina Rings

Venue: Festival Hub: Trades Hall - Common Rooms | Cnr Lygon & Victoria Sts, Carlton VIC
Dates: 18 – 23 October 2022
Tickets: $34.50 – $15
Bookings: melbournefringe.com.au

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