Maureen Harbinger of Death
Writer & Performer Jonny Hawkins. Co-conceiver & Director Nell Ranney.. Set & Costume Designer Isabel Hudson. Lighting Designer Nick Schlieper. Sound Designer Steve Toulmin. Lighting Associate Morgan Moroney. Producer Jo Dyer. Production Manager Lachlan Steel, Technical Consultant Marcus Kelson. Stage Manager Tanya Leach. A Soft Tread production in association with Sign of the Acorn. The Space. Adelaide Festival Centre. March 15-18 2023
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
It would be natural to think that Maureen Harbinger of Death is about death. And it is. But it is also about life as the harbinger of death. Writer Jonny Hawkins enters to offer an acknowledgement of Kaurna land and pay respects to elders past present and emerging and ask the audience to remove the curse of the mobile phone which had plagued previous performances by turning them off altogether. With personable charm he explains that many women who have entered his life, some famous, some family, some unknown will be represented in the character of Maureen, who lives in the heart of Kings Cross and is now an old woman. Maureen Harbinger of Death will be a testimonial to women through the story of one woman
A large scalloped theatre
curtain of gold and dappled velvet hangs as a backdrop and spreads out over the floor and across the chair in the
centre of the stage and the adjoining table. Hawkins walks across to the table
and picks up a pair of earrings that he fits to his ears. He then places a
simple necklace about his neck and takes a piece of the curtaining from the
chair and ties it around his waist and sits in the chair. He is now Maureen,
slipping easily and believably into role. The audience is charmed into that
willing suspension of disbelief as Maureen begins to explain her portentious
Jonny Hawkins as Maureen
She is the Cross’s soothsayer, able to predict the death of her friends. She passes the list to the audience and asks members to read out a name of one of the dead from the list. It cleverly draws the audience into her story, participants in the lives of an odd assortment of characters, disliked cousin Jody, jolly Ken, bisexual lover Dennis, wealthy Bonny who died in the arms of Hugh Jackman and fashion conscious Teneil to name a few. For eighty minutes Maureen lets the stories roll of the tongue, stopping only to invite Craig from the audience to light her cigarette. She is the consummate teller of tales, captivating in her independent strength, funny in her account of the characters that populate her world, quick witted in her reference to Buckingham Palace across the street, named by her on account of the many Queens who live there.
It is a testament she holds dear as she tells the audience that she never married nor had children. There is no shame or guilt or sense of unfulfillment in her confession. Nor is she the witch of fairytales, the wicked crone of fables or the victim of men’s recrimination. She is the voice of the independent spirit. Hawkins plays her superbly with wit, instinctive wisdom and a relish for the anarchic.