Wednesday, March 22, 2023



Written by Joanna Murray-Smith

Directed by Sarah Goodes

Sydney Theatre Company production

Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse to March 25


Reviewed by Len Power


In ‘Julia’, the new play by Joanna Murray-Smith, the playwright imagines the woman and the psychology of the ‘misogyny speech’ famously made in Parliament by former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, on the 9 October 2012.

Gillard was responding to a motion by the then leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, which accused Gillard of sexism and called her leadership into question.  After months of criticism in the media and by politicians, Gillard’s response was a speech inspired by the hypocrisy that she perceived to be motivating the accusation of sexism.  It became a world-wide viral sensation.

Murray-Smith gives us flashbacks to the young Julia, her developing sense of values, her formidable determination to effect change that led her into Law and, ultimately, into Parliament.

Justine Clarke gives a memorably strong performance as Julia, showing her passion and drive as well as her sensitivity.  It’s a marathon role that sees her onstage for the entire ninety minute show.  She gives her own version of Julia, not a copy.  At the end of the play we see her theatrical transformation into Julia to deliver that famous speech, which Clarke does brilliantly.

There is also a young woman, played by Jessica Bentley, who is silent for the most part and represents the younger Julia and also the younger generation of women.  She is the witness and the watcher, a difficult role that Bentley performs with quiet skill.

The setting by the production designer, Renée Mulder – a mirrored room with a square carpet and projected video - serves as a public arena as well as the space that represents Julia’s inner thoughts.  With subtle lighting by Alexander Berlage, sound and music by Steve Francis and video design by Susie Henderson, the atmosphere of Parliament and Julia’s world is cleverly created.

Director, Sarah Goodes, brings all the elements together to produce a show that is insightful, fast-paced and funny at times.  Her production gives the play an added dimension that helps to provide a deeper understanding of Julia Gillard, her time as Prime Minister and the political climate of the day.

Playwright, Joanna Murray-Smith, has produced a fine play that not only looks at Julia Gillard, her life and that famous speech, but also takes on the wider issue of hypocrisy within our Australian culture and its effect on our democracy.


Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at