According to Tony Briggs, writer of much-loved and multi-award-winning musical play The Sapphires, Durumbal woman Lorinda Merrypor is “very talented” and “someone every theatre producer should look out for”.
Lorinda feels honoured by Brigg’s appreciation of her, and privileged to be a part of this production in which Briggs directs his own play for the first time. She describes working with Briggs as an “amazing learning experience”, and feels she benefitted from the fact that for Briggs it was a personal story, based upon the experiences of his mother, Laurel Robinson.
Briggs wrote the play 15 years ago and it has not only been performed many times but was also made into a highly successful film. This new production which is touring nationwide will be staged at more than 140 venues, and is eagerly anticipated by theatre-going audiences. “Its appeal is enduring,” says Lorinda, as it is both “eye-opening” and “unique”.
As Lorinda points out, there are not many Australian stories that have won international fame as a musical or as a play, let alone one that tells the story of four young Aboriginal women singers who get the chance to change their lives, and is set in the turbulent years of the Vietnam War.
Apart from it being a heartwarming story of the many obstacles that the young women, scarcely considered citizens by the wider Australian society, eventually overcome, it also features “great soul music”. “The audience,” says Lorinda, “just can’t help tapping its feet and humming along.”
Lorinda plays Julie, whom she describes as a headstrong 17 year-old, frustrated by being considered too young, and constantly offered conflicting advice by those around her which merely confuses her. Her story is a growing-up story, or rather, a story of growing up too fast. As she speaks about Julie, her empathy for the character is obvious, as is her desire to bring Julie’s life authentically to the stage.
Her most favourite moment in the play is when the four women sing “Ngarra Burra Ferra” a capella to their mothers by phone. “Our hearts are exploding,” she says “we are laughing, crying…” and the whole audience responds “almost as if they’re holding their breath.”
The Sapphires will be at Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, September 24-28, 2019.