MAUREEN – HARBINGER OF DEATH
31/03/2023 - 01/04/2023
Written and performed by Jonny Hawkins
Co-conceived and directed by Nell Ranney
Maureen is the real jewel of the [Sydney] festival – The Saturday Paper
Framed by velvet drapes and bedecked with Jatz cracker crumbs and cigarette ash, Maureen invites you into her bohemian living room.
She’s here to take you on an intimate journey brimming with witty repartee, well-worn life advice, an exotic array of friends now gone and the dauntless potency of limitless imagination.
With exquisite storytelling, writer and performer Jonny Hawkins transforms into Maureen: a razor-tongued doyenne of Kings Cross in its heyday. Co-created by Nell Ranney, this poignantly funny solo show takes inspiration from Hawkins’ friend, a self-described “working class glamour queen” and one of life’s true eccentrics.
An intimate celebration of matriarchal power, this is one swansong you won’t want to miss!
Hawkins plays her with such magnanimity that she grows in our hearts, gladdens us, saddens us, and makes us want her to live forever. — Sydney Morning Herald
Lake Wanaka Centre
Friday 31 March, Saturday 1 April 2023
7pm (Friday), 1pm (Saturday)
$52/$47/$42 (Students $25)
Contains adult themes, sexual references and the use of herbal cigarettes.
Performer Jonny Hawkins
Photograph by Clare Hawley
1 hr 25 min no interval
Refreshing and at times uncomfortably reflective
Review by Aspen Bruce 01st Apr 2023
Floral velvet drapes frame the Lake Wānaka Centre stage while the crowd magnetically clings to every word Maureen Daly says. Actor and writer Jonny Hawkins embodies her – the chain smoking, Kings Cross resident who, for one night only, invites us into her living room for a boundaryless conversation.
At first the idea of sitting for an hour and half just listening to her talk seems daunting. And yet that is the very wonder and true mastery concealed within Hawkins monologic performance. Maureen is ironic and unapologetically reflective.
She challenges the stereotypical idea that elderly women are weathered, jaded, invisible in the room; that their own stories are insignificant and evaporate with time. How Hawkins reflects this is masterful. In the performance, Maureen talks about the circular nature of life; how it spirals back upon itself.
The script plays with this metaphor in what – at face value – seems like a disjointed jumble of memories. Yet as the performance develops, Maureen’s well-worn wisdom reveals itself in an unlikely manner. Her musings swing between comedic anecdotes about dating and sex to death and grief. Much like the fabric surrounding her, Maureen’s humour intersects with sage observations that only a life richly-lived can provide: “a meal is just an excuse to be together”, “people’s rooms are like their body, it shows you a part of their soul” and “blood is a million red soldiers coming from the heart, to save us” – to name a few.
Hawkins blends philosophy with comedy in a way that effortlessly engages us. His masterful cadence and humour reflects a tone only a playful woman, wise with wit, can capture.
The mise-en-scene captures this poignant simplicity. A draping velvet curtain washes the background and entire stage, six spotlights with three hues – bright white, warm white and blue – a table holding cigarettes, an ash and jewellery tray, glass of water. And next to it, Maureen sitting centre stage in her chair.
For me the performance mirrors, with an uncomfortable intimacy, my own great grandmother (GG) who also lived in Sydney. Maureen and GG are one in the same, and I marvel as Maureen’s encounters with tragedy – the deaths of her dear friends; the loss and grief – recall conversations I’ve had with my own GG.
Hawkins reflectively challenges through cadence and lighting alone, as Maureen loses track of the audience and retreats into her own thoughts. Dim blue light rests on her long black sleeve as the thoughts spew out of her with spitfire frequency. We watch on as Maureen – visually and verbally – tosses about through fractured and timeless memories and moments. At first it’s jarring, almost violent, as we watch a woman wade through her own early life experiences. Then the lights lift and she’s back.
Only she is not speaking to us directly, but confiding in her imaginary friend – Persephone. References to the Grecian Goddess become more frequent as this evening with Maureen moulds together to finally settle on the moral metaphor and circling closure.
“We tell stories for something to believe in. If you don’t like what it says about you, find a different way to tell it and remember, love and ownership are two different things.”
And that’s where I believe the genius behind this Jonny Hawkins performance resides. Through Maureen, Hawkins has a remarkable ability to create reflective audience tension. Maureen – Harbinger of Death is refreshing and at times uncomfortably reflective.
As I leave the theatre and sit with the tension that a truly great performance sparks, I feel the urge to call my loved ones; to take the only thing I truly have control of – time – to simply sit (maybe with a glass of wine in hand) and listen to them share parts of their own stories.
I wonder if this is not the singular purpose of Hawkins’ performance and production. The gift Maureen leaves us with is to challenge how we perceive one another. For one person, Maureen is a stereotypical ‘bored, lonely woman,’ and yet to another she is a revelatory matriarch, ripe with unapologetic age and wisdom, worthy of being listened too.
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