But I'm Still Here by Lorna Bol, reviewed by Sue Gough
Brisbane is lucky to have a small theatre like La Boite which is willing to take risks with new works. So far this Season the risks have paid off - and - in the case of Hannie Raysen's Room To Move - southern productions have followed. This deserves to be the case with Queensland playwright Lorna Bol's But I'm Still Here, a deceptively simple piece of writing which unfolds to reveal an abundantly complex heart.
But I'm Still Here was acclaimed at the 1985 Australian National Playwrights' Conference and given a public reading by the Melbourne Theatre Company. In spite of this, it was hard to foresee just how successful it would be in the playing, for this is very much an actors' play.
It has no pretensions to theatrical innovation, being an extremely structured piece. What Bol is chronicling is the tragedy of the forgotten woman. Dorrie - and there are still thousands like her - is selfless, dutiful, loyal, hardworking, loving, middle-aged and dull. She is the mother of today's young and the daughter of today's old and has been taught to nurture her family before herself.
Everything comes too late for Dorrie - liberation, rewards, truth and even anger. Played with great sensitivity by Kaye Stevenson, Dorrie is firmly anchored to her tyrannical mother, Gran. But this is not to say she is ignorant of her bondage.
Her problem is that she is helpless because she is a victim of social conditioning and to buck the system would cause her even more pain and guilt. Bev Langford skilfully creates and sustains Gran as a totally unlovable old bitch, all vinegar and flint, burning with anger at changes in society which undermine the certainties of her own hard life.
Jane Daley is well cast as Jan, the sophisticated daughter who tries to make her mother stand up for herself. Anne Kilmartin as Nancy, the very pregnant unmarried daughter, provides the necessary touch of humour in the play and does it beautifully.
The only man in the cast is Hugh Taylor who plays the elderly neighbour, Bart. Taylor finds a calm, slow pace which gives exactly the right weight to the gentle shorthand of the script.
Jennifer Blocksidge's direction is impeccable. The script's simplicity makes it extremely fragile and any director who tried to push it in any particular direction or who beat up bits of business would be treading on eggshells.
This production maintained the integrity perfectly. The venue certainly helped. This is not a play for the large stage but one that needs the intimacy of the close-up. This feeling of intimacy accentuates the shocker of a climax. Suffice to say that the audience has the satisfaction of seeing Gran get it in the end, but this is not necessarily a win for Dorrie.
The Australia, 13 June 1986
Courtesy Bev Langford