Joanne Hartstone returns to the Adelaide Fringe Festival with another original solo show. Daring indeed! She embodies one of the most headstrong, significant South Australian female figures in history, and she does so brilliantly.

Joanne Hartstone. Photo supplied

The audience, appeased ever so quickly following a delayed start due to technical issues, drawn in as they were when Hartstone set foot on stage and delivered her first line. She was instantly likeable and drew her patrons into her story like moths to flame.

Hartstone is an energetic, dynamic, and comedic actress. She paid fitting homage to the elocutionist and women’s rights advocate, Muriel Matters-Porter, by striking a commendable balance between formality, humour, and panache.

Aided by Nicholas Collett’s scrupulous direction, Nikki Fort’s wonderful costume design, and Tom Kitney’s tasteful production design, the venue was perfect, and set the right tone for the period of this work.

The set featured costumes hung up on a rack, chairs, Muriel’s writing desk laden with books, and a large chest which doubled as a hot air balloon and jail cell. The set design was clever in eliciting a different locale and time. However, the featured projection that signposted the story by chapters was, at times, disrupted by Hartstone’s scene changes and movement across the stage. Ultimately, this affected some sightlines causing some of the text on the screen to be missed.

As a Fringe veteran with many accolades to her name, Hartstone’s four years in researching and writing this show resulted in an entertaining theatrical work. The performance notes provided an informative chronicle of the inspiration behind the work and enhanced my appreciation for the creation process.

Hartstone is a talented playwright and reminds us all about the power we have to advocate for human rights, and the importance of having a voice and an education. That Daring Australian Girl earned her and her creative team the Adelaide Fringe’s Best Theatre Award. Considering the variety of productions I have seen this year, this one is deserving of its accolades and is a theatrical tour-de-force of this year’s Fringe circuit. Hartstone is a class act impressively reciting an hour-long performance on her own without missing a beat.

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Reviewed performance: 13 March, 2018
Season: Until 18 March, 2018
Time: 6.15 pm
Venue: Holden Street Theatres

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