First penned by Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin (1879–1954) as a novel to amuse her friends when she was a teenager, the ironically titled My Brilliant Career now makes its appearance on the Belvoir stage in a terrific adaptation by Kendall Feaver.
The story tells of young Sybilla Melvyn’s attempt to break out of a background of rural poverty, gender prejudice and the pitfalls of love and marriage.
As a gritty young woman determined to make her own way in the world, she struggles to express the creative urge she feels to be a writer, all the while having to endure back-breaking work on her parents’ farm, then toiling as an indentured servant to pay off her father’s debt to his neighbour.
With her extraordinary command of emotional expression, Nikki Shiels is so spell-binding as Sybilla that she tends to outshine the supporting cast.
There were some odd choices in costuming, like the yoga tights on Sybilla’s mum and plastic sandals on her mum and sister.
But these are only quibbles in a work that is superbly directed by Kate Champion and manages to capture so much of Sybilla’s life on a stage bereft of all but the most minimal props.
If ever a work was a feminist call to arms, this is it.
Until Jan 31. Belvoir Theatre, 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills. $33-$83+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.belvoir.com.au