"This is a passionate, thoughtful and engaging play. Many
of its points are highly relevant to our times. No one can write again about the
Kellys without taking this brilliant work into account."
Val Noone, Tain, the magazine of the Australian Irish
network, no 38 (Aug-Sept 2005)
Ellen, Maggie and Kate re-charge the Kelly saga
The world premiere of Quilting the Armour, a play about the women in the Ned Kelly
saga, performed in the Glenrowan Soldiers Memorial Hall on 1 July, was a stunning
success. It was a privilege to watch it in the company of local families who had
been seriously consulted in the writing and rehearsal stages. Indeed, eight of the
community took part as a chorus.
The play begins (and ends) with a re-enactment of the legendary photograph of Ellen
Kelly nee Quinn, Ned's mother, at about 90 years of age in a rocking chair, with
a visiting parish priest.
From the shadows the ghosts of her daughters Maggie and Kate urge her to pass on
"the memories, Ma". By that time Ellen had outlived all her children except Jim
and had helped rear her grandchildren.
"Ellen endured so much," Jeannie Haughton, one of the team who wrote the play, told
Kay O'Sullivan of the Age (28/6). "Ellen's motivation in life was simple: to create
a better life for her children. How is that different from any mother in history?"
For Haughton, the indomitable spirit of mothers is a universal theme which will
give the play appeal to an audience beyond the usual Kelly devotees.
The idea for the play came from Helen Morris who grew up in the northeast and it
was written by Brenda Addie, Jeannie Haughton and Rosemary Johns. Rodney Hall was
director. Funding came from the Myer Foundation and the City of Wangaratta with
much voluntary effort as well. The name comes from a Sydney Nolan 1947 painting.
Ned is never on stage, a sensible and powerful move. Seeing the story through the
eyes of Ellen, Maggie and Kate you get to feel their love, fear and loss more intensely.
For instance, the persecution of the poor selectors such as the Kellys by the police
and squatters is thrown into starker clarity than ever. As is the part played by
Irish police in oppressing other Irish.
The acting was excellent with Debra Lawrance and Dennis Coard in key roles. The
achievement in turning the football club hall into a theatre was impressive.
This is a passionate, thoughtful and engaging play. Many of its points are highly
relevant to our times. No one can write again about the Kellys without taking this
brilliant work into account. Ω
-from Táin, the magazine of the Australian Irish Network, no 38 (Aug-Sept 2005)