The Hatpin tells one of the darkest tales in Australia’s history. Written by Peter Rutherford and James Millar, this piece of Australian music theatre has been staged more regularly over the last few years (which is just as it should be for a work of this quality), and this week, Waterdale present their production of The Hatpin at Rivergum Theatre at Parade College in Bundoora.
At the heart of the piece is the true story of Amber Murray, an eighteen year old who finds herself in the awful position of not being able to care for her infant son, Horace. Faced with letting him starve if he stays with her, Amber chooses what she believes to be best for her son: she places Horace in the temporary care of the Agatha & Charles Makin and pays them a fee to look after him. Murray’s choice was one that carried dire consequences.
Amy Elliott portrays Amber in Waterdale’s production. She is very close to Amber Murray’s age, which has its advantages and its challenges. “As I am only 17, I have had little life experience on which to draw on in relation to my character”, says Elliott. “It was hard for me to imagine being a mother, homeless and having to make such heartbreaking decisions”. To gain a better understanding of Amber, Elliott did her research. “I read Amber Murray’s diary and bought some Australian crime books with her story documented, so as I could understand the circumstances which surrounded my role”.
Elliott may not have been through the horrors that Murray experienced, but she does feels a sense of connection with the character. “I think by the end of this show Amber has become a very strong woman, and the challenges of the show has certainly pushed me to be the same. The supportive relationship with Harriet Piper, who becomes a strong mother figure to Amber, is very much along the same lines as the relationship I have with my own Mum”.
It is staggering to think that a show that deals with children being separated from their parents could strike a chord of relevance in this day and age. Continues Elliott, “[The Hatpin is] a deep and moving piece of theatre that demonstrates the courage of single mothers and the role they played in bringing about major changes to the Child Protection Act in Australia. It’s a fairly dark show with heavy themes but a truly beautiful and powerful piece of Australian theatre ”.
Anyone who plays Amber Murray would certainly feel the emotional weight of the role, and Elliott is grateful to her fellow cast members. “As it is quite a heavy piece emotionally, the cast and crew try to keep the mood [in the rehearsal room] light and positive”, says Elliott. “Jacqui Moore, who plays the role of Harriet Piper, has been a huge support system for me through this whole process. Whenever the emotions throughout the show were too overwhelming, she always helped me to overcome them and it has really been an honour to share the stage with her by my side”.
Waterdale’s The Hatpin opens on Friday July 6th at the Rivergum Theatre, Parade College in Bundoora for a strictly limited season. Show dates are:
Friday July 6th – 7:30pm
Saturday July 7th – 7:30pm
Sunday July 8th – 5:00pm **Twilight Performance
Friday July 13th – 7:30pm
Saturday July 14th – 7:30pm
Tickets are available from www.waterdale.org.au/hatpin