Put yourself in Lorinda Merrypor’s shoes of yesteryear. A young Indigenous kid growing up in Rockhampton, Queensland, harnessing a deep burning love for musical theatre with nothing but her telly screen to feed her appetite.
By Hannah Muir
Her location means a lack of accessibility to touring stage shows, while her identity means a lack of representation on the screen. Not particularly inspiring stuff. That is, of course, until she watched Jessica Mauboy audition for Australian Idol in 2006, and later, her portrayal of Julie in the 2012 film, The Sapphires.
“I thought, that could be me. I knew I wanted to be a performer, but up until that point I had never thought it would be possible, or if it was, I would be playing someone very different from me, ” Lorinda says.
“If you see it, you can be it. But I never saw it until I saw Jessica Mauboy in The Sapphires.”
Fast forward to 2018, and Lorinda is cast to play Julie in the widely acclaimed stage show of the same name. Except for a few COVID cancellations, the show has been touring nationally, including often-forgotten regional towns since 2019. This month, it’s the NT’s turn.
In case you’ve been living under a non-precious stone, The Sapphires is the true story of four Yorta Yorta women, one of which is writer Tony Briggs’ mother. From their humble beginnings as a small group singing country music, to being picked up and sent to perform for troops serving in the Vietnam War, the story was written for stage, adapted for film. This stage edition is said to be Briggs’ most intimate version yet.
“It’s the cast that’s made it so intimate. It’s intimate for us to play this story, to be a first nations person playing a First Nations character,” Lorinda says. In 2019, The Sapphires was showing in Shepparton, the home of the real Sapphires. Lorinda was surprised one day by a phone call from the real Julie.
“She said to me, ‘I heard you guys are in Shepparton, do you want to come over for dinner?’ We spent all night with them, we sang together around the dinner table. It was surreal. It really drove the story home even more.”
Lorinda says the most rewarding part of the job is the community outreach. The cast and crew travel through rural and remote Australia visiting schools and community centres, talking to the kids that she was of yesteryear.
“I feel such pride and honour to be part of this story and to get to share that with kids that need to see that is really special.”
Photo: Jodie Hutchinson