Theatre Review: Mother May We (SBW Stables Theatre, Sydney) ★★★★

Sydney performance artist and poet Mel Ree’s semi-autobiographical one-woman show, Mother May We, takes a slice of underground culture and converts it into a compelling tale of a woman’s search for her mother. Put on your dancing shoes because there’s a party to be had here!

Mel Ree is at the crossroads of life in multiple ways as a mixed race queer artist. Growing up around abuse, she has no model of what healthy relationships should be so spends her time in pursuit of love from unhealthy sources. She parties too hard. She makes impulsive choices, geared to confront the “Karens” around her. Life has taught her to fight.

Mel Ree in Mother May We. Credit: DefinitelyDefne Photography, @definitelydefne101

The hole in her heart is that of the mother she’s never connected with. The woman who never dealt with her own traumatic history, and couldn’t give love to her daughter. Descended from Papua New Guinea, in Ree’s mind she is a warrior and a witch all in one. 

Ree is magnetic on stage. She holds the audience in the palm of her hand. Even wardrobe malfunctions can’t break the spell. “This is live theatre, it happens!” she quips while removing pieces of an intricate outfit, “it’s opening night, I’ll be great at this in two weeks!” And there’s a twinkle in her eye. In a way it sums up the evening – in the face of adversity Ree stands up, acknowledges the pain and moves past it to the next thing.

Mel Ree in Mother May We. Credit: DefinitelyDefne Photography, @definitelydefne101

Stories of sex and solidarity are mixed with her hopes and dreams as Ree unpeels the onion of her own emotions and motivations. And just when you start to think this is an over-wrought therapy session she flips the script. The night isn’t about wallowing in pain, but in manifesting healing. A quick hit of audience interaction (including balloon popping and shouts of affirmation) and the room comes to a place of joy. A show that starts with drug-infused clubbing behind a mask ends with confetti flying and shouts of cathartic praise.

The show is brought to life thanks to excellent lighting (Frankie Clarke) and sound design (Steven Khoury) that transform the small black-box space into a vibrant arena for Ree to play in.

Mel Ree in Mother May We. Credit: DefinitelyDefne Photography, @definitelydefne101

Mother May We runs the gamut from trauma to celebration, as Mel Ree puzzles out the pieces of her life to find out who she is and it’s a spiritually and emotionally fulfilling journey. All in a tight 65 minutes.

By Chad Armstrong

Mother May We plays at the SBW Stables Theatre, part of Griffin Theatre Company’s Lookout, Sydney till October 8. Click here for tickets and more information.

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