When Queen Elizabeth II was driven past the Aboriginal settlement outside of Shepparton, Victoria during the Royal Tour of 1954, she saw nothing of it.
At the insistence of local authorities, the route was lined with acres of hessian lest Her Majesty’s gaze be affronted by the flood-prone tin shacks some of her imperial subjects were compelled to call home.
Such was life for Aboriginal people in post-war Australia: when visibility was demanded, it was denied; when privacy and security was requested, they were ignored.
Portraying three generations of women, Jane Harrison’s comedy-flecked drama depicts a point in time when Indigenous voices – particularly those of women – began to be heard while spotlighting one family’s struggle for equality in housing, education, work and opportunity.
Nan Dear (played by Lily Shearer), widowed daughter Gladys (Dalara Williams) and teenaged granddaughter Dolly (Phoebe Grainer) live under the same roof and peaceably so for the most part.
Change is coming, however, first in the form of Errol (Lincoln Vickery), a city boy selling encyclopaedia subscriptions, and second in a local government drive to re-house its Aboriginal community in a cheerless estate of new homes – whether they want to move or not.
This first-time collaboration between Darlinghurst Theatre Company and Mooghalin Performing Arts (Liza-Mare Syron directs) results in a handsome production. Designer Melanie Liertz’s set and period clothing looks very fine under Karen Norris’s lights. Opening night revealed a show lacking something in suppleness and consistency, however. Grainer is a bright presence throughout, but only very late in the proceedings, when Williams is granted access to a microphone, does Rainbow’s End seem to reach out beyond the lip of the stage and demand your attention.