Playwright Kendall Feaver has taken on the stage adaptation of the Australian classic written by Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin when she was a just 21 years old.
Feaver brings accolades to her current work, including the 2015 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting (the largest such competition in Europe), as well as the NSW and Victorian Premiers Literary Awards in 2019.
The play is directed by award-winning Kate Champion, who last directed the sell-out success Every Brilliant Thing by British playwright Duncan Macmillan for the Belvoir Theatre in 2019.
In the lead role is Nikki Shiels as Sybylla Melvin, the courageous young woman who, despite facing rural poverty, drought, her father’s drunkenness, and the drudgery of farm labour that lead to her having a breakdown, rejects a suitor who might have alleviated her circumstances. She is left with a determination not to marry.
Little did Franklin know that her work would come to be regarded as the “first Australian novel.” It received glowing reviews when first published in 1901 and was reprinted six times in three years.
Some readers will remember the extraordinary interpretation the inimitable Judy Davis brought to the role of Sybylla in the 1979 Gillian Armstrong film.
Nikki Shiels has a lot to live up to but, judging by the performance that won her “Best Female Actor in an Independent Production” in the 2018 Sydney Theatre Awards for They Divided The Sky (Daniel Schlusser Ensemble/25A), she will more than hold her own.
Until Jan 31. Belvoir Theatre, 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills. $33-$83+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.belvoir.com.au