Imagine you are a young woman in 19th century London with a chequered past who has been promised a new life in the colonies of Australia.
The play, developed with the support of Playwriting Australia, the Victorian College of the Arts, Women in Theatre and Screen and Abbotsford Convent, is inspired by Urania Cottage, a home for `fallen’ women founded in London by Charles Dickens in 1847.
In accepting a `new life’ the girls had to leave everything behind and never tell anyone of their past.
However as Fallen illustrates, erasing the past is near impossible, especially when you are cut off from the outside world and the only company you have are the other girls in the house.
There’s also a very good chance to end up in such a place you will be emotionally scarred. And in Fallen the five girls residing in the house – Isabella (Artemis Ioannides), Julia (Gemma Bird Matheson), Rosina (Jing-Xuan Chan), Martha (Tahlee Fereday) and Georgie (Veronica Thomas) all have plenty of issues.
Those issues lead to lots of angry outbursts, bullying, sexual repression and power plays. Most power plays revolve around the very manipulative Matron (Zoe Boesen)who is responsible for teaching the girls the skills which it was believed they needed to be good wives or servants. As a result days are spent cooking, sewing, cleaning, singing, dancing and learning the right cutlery to use.
As the time comes for the girls to leave the house and head to Australia each becomes more uncertain and angry, leading to even more conflict.
Fallen provides the perfect vehicle for each of the cast members to showcase their acting skills as we gradually learn about their character’s background and their fears of a future life in Australia. All do a great job in what must be very challenging roles given the show runs for two hours without an interval. The anger, confusion and often sadness their characters experience are expertly portrayed from the start to the end of the performance.
While it is impossible to imagine what the girls who passed through Urania Cottage went through all those years ago, She Said Theatre should be congratulated for attempting it.
Fallen is playing at fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne until August 26. Visit fortyfivedownstairs’s website for tickets and more information.
Jenny Burns attending the opening night of Fallen as a guest of She Said Theatre.
*Photo credit: Sarah Walker Photography.
Visit travelswithjb.com.au-live shows for more show reviews.
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