The experienced cast easily negotiates the different turns of scene and life with simple props and staging that evoke the rigours of the depression-era working-class upbringing of the two sisters as they long for better times.
It’s is a view into a sliver of New Zealand life that bolder Americans with their ‘you can be anything’ philosophy may be unfamiliar with, and how the stories our mothers tell us (and the ones we tell ourselves) echo throughout our lives.
Director Leah Patterson tells the story with simple staging and a combination of mixed media narration from the sisters as older women, played by Elizabeth Hawthorn as Fag and Donogh Rees as Ginnie, interacting at times with their younger selves played by Siobhan Marshall as Ginnie and Amy Waller as Fag.
It’s a deft device that works well to bring together the two narratives – life being experienced in real time and from the perspective of old age. Playwright Norelle Scott has successfully managed the tricky task of writing the characterisations so that the four women are believable as both older and young versions of each other, ably supported by actors Oscar Wilson as Fag’s husband Roddie, and Millien Baird as Ginnie’s husband Jaz.
What I didn't like
I watched the play at the preview so the cast was still ironing out some kinks and opening night nerves. A few minor sound issues and slight hiccups, but nothing you wouldn’t expect at a preview and I expect the opening night will run smoothly.
My overall impression
Oracles and Miracles offers a bittersweet insight into a fundamental faultline in the New Zealand psyche – the “tall poppy syndrome” – and it’s effect on two sisters growing up in depression-era Christchurch (a regional city in the South Island of New Zealand). The play follows two working-class sisters, nicknamed Ginnie and Fag, from their early childhood in the depression through to motherhood in the baby boom of the early fifties.
We journey with them and discover how each sister’s response to their neglectful and abusive mother constantly reminding them not to get “too big for their boots” drives their dreams, hopes, ambitions and need for love and belonging – and the effect this has on their relationship with each other.