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Heather Mitchell is sensational in ‘RBG: Of Many, One’

Perth audiences are renown for being hard to impress, and opening night audiences sometimes even more so.

But when the stage faded to blackout on the final scene of Heather Mitchell’s stunning performance as US Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the entire opening night audience of RBG sprung to their feet like a coiled spring with a rapturous standing ovation that is rarely seen in Perth theatres.

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Word is, the high praise has happened every night at the end of the play. It’s one of the best theatrical performances in a decade.

Mitchell’s skill in bringing to life the legendary legal scholar in Suzie Miller’s RBG: Of Many, One is outstanding.

For an hour and 45 minutes she commands the stage portraying Ginsberg, her husband, her children, Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama, Donald Trump, as well as all the other judges on the US Supreme Court.

Impressively she brings to life the trailblazing legal mind at many different stages of her life, she is young Ginsberg, middle aged Ginsberg, she’s the Supreme Court justice in her advancing years and in her final days. They play is not sequential, she changes between different moments in Ginsberg’s life like the flick of a switch.

The action begins with Ginsberg waiting for a life changing phone call from US President Bill Clinton. Like a watched pot, the phone does not ring, but when it finally does the 42nd President of the USA shares that he’s decided to appoint Ginsberg to be only the second woman ever to sit on the US Supreme Court.

The play rockets by at an outstanding rate, it felt like we were only in the theatre for half the actual running time, it’s completely captivating.

Filled with humour, the laughs are frequent with comedic scenes of Ginsberg posing for photos, sharing her inner-monologue while meeting presidents, getting into workouts in her 80s, and sharing the secret messages that were spread through the different collars on her judicial robes.

A moment where the character suddenly launches in to an impression of Donald Trump had the entire audience in stiches.

At its core the play is bubbling with inspirational messages about social justice, equality, feminism and the importance of separation of powers.

Half way through the proceedings I was seriously toying with a career change into law, so profound is the play’s central message of fighting injustice, and it’s powerful observation that real change can take generations.

Cleverly staged with a simple set and powerful lighting, we follow Ginsberg through her home, chambers, the court, the White House, the Kennedy Center and at the end of her life hospitals.

It’s a journey through a very full life, cleverly encapsulated by faultless storytelling.

After an acclaimed debut season at the Sydney Theatre Company, Black Swan State Theatre have made a great choice importing this amazing production.

It sets a high bar for their next in-house show, a production of another acclaimed Suzie Miller play Prima Facie. After highly praised seasons on Broadway in London’s West End Black Swan will stage the play with Sophia Forrest in the lead.

They’re inviting comparisons between these two works. Both by Suzie Miller, both one woman shows, both set in the legal world.

So far in 2024 Black Swan State Theatre Company has struggled. Their first production of the year Pool, while innovatively set at an actual pubic swimming pool, was a snooze-fest.

Then plans for Pickle Jam a celebration of up-and-coming local creatives fell through. A restaging of Andrea Gibbs Barracking for the Umpire saw them get back on track and enjoyed a tour around the state.

RBG: Of Many, One is everything you want theatre to be. Entertaining, though provoking, inspirational and unforgettable.

The season is completely sold out, tickets for Black Swan State Theatre’s next show Prima Facie are on sale now.

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