My Brilliant Career

Theatre, Drama
A red-haired Nikki Shiels looking over her shoulder, close-up, as Sybylla in Belvoir’s My Brilliant Career
Photograph: Supplied/Belvoir/Brett Boardman

Time Out says

Miles Franklin's finest gets another chance to shine as Belvoir takes it to the stage

Esteemed author Miles Franklin gave her name to Australia’s most prestigious book prize. Her treasured novel My Brilliant Career was written when she was only 20 years old. Depicting the life and times of headstrong Sybylla Melvyn and her determination to go her own way in the 1890s, the story was memorably brought to the big screen by, yes, brilliant director Gillian Armstrong, casting Judy Davis as Sybylla and Sam Neil as her would-be suitor Harry.

Now you can see it come alive all over again on stage at Belvoir St Theatre thanks to a brand-new adaptation by Australian playwright Kendall Feaver (The Almighty Sometimes) and directed by Kate Champion (Every Brilliant Thing). Running from December 5-January 31, the magnificent Nikki Shiels (The Sugar House, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) steps into Sybylla’s shoes, with Guy Simon as Harry alongside a stellar cast worthy of Miles' fine words in Blazey Best (Medea), Jason Chong (Chimerica), Tom Conroy (Jasper Jones), Emma Harvie (The Harp in the South) and Tracey Mann (Top End Wedding).

Belvoir’s artistic director Eamon Flack says: “Nikki has a great old-fashioned star quality mixed with a great contemporary boldness that is one of the gifts of contemporary feminism. It’s a boldness she shares with Kendall… We went to great lengths to save this show from being lost to [lockdown], but we made it a priority because of these artists, and because Australian writers and Australian writing matter more than ever.”

It’s a fascinating look at the turn of last century and the expectations and suppressions placed on women. Like Miles herself, Sybylla is determined to be a writer, but distractions along the way include young love, collapsing family fortunes and a society not quite ready for brilliant women to shine. We may be facing some of the same problems now, depressingly, but you can bet this production will positively glow.

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