Labour of love
Jessica Marais and Jonathan LaPaglia star in Love Child
Society’s values and attitudes are constantly shifting and evolving, but there are times throughout history when that process seems to move a little faster. And the 1960s are generally viewed as one such era.
Due to the changes that came about, it’s a period often viewed through rosecoloured glasses. But it was also a turbulent time when the conservative, established way of doing things bumped up against a more radical point of view.
It was challenging and confronting for many people. But moving forward always requires some effort and results in a bit of friction.
The new Nine drama Love Child uses the ’ 60s era as a backdrop for a vibrant, engaging story of a changing world and the people struggling to either break free of the bonds restricting them or maintain the safe status quo.
Set in Sydney’s Kings Cross circa 1969, it revolves around the area’s general hospital and the adjoining Stanton House, a home for young and unwed mothersto- be.
Matron Frances Bolton ( Mandy McElhinney) rules the roost with an iron fist, frowning upon the youthful exuberance of Stanton House residents like Viv ( Sophie Hensser), Martha ( The
Sapphires’ Miranda Tapsell), Annie ( Gracie Gilbert) and Shirley ( Ella Scott Lynch) and forbidding them from even leaving the building.
But the arrival at Kings Cross General Hospital of new midwife Joan Millar ( Jessica Marais), back home after years in London, promises to shake things up.
Clashing with the stern Matron Bolton and the staid Dr Patrick McNaughton ( Jonathan LaPaglia) as she tries to introduce a more compassionate approach to caring for these young women, Joan is determined to drag the establishment kicking and screaming into the future.
It’s a charismatic character for the talented Marais to play, and one the former Packed to the Rafters star was eager to bring to life.
“After being in London for quite some time, where she was engaged to an English doctor and running with quite a sophisticated crowd, she’s back in Sydney, nursing
a bit of a broken heart, and finds herself forming a bond with many of these girls at Stanton House,” Marais said.
“She has her own career aspirations – she wants to be one of the first female obstetricians in Sydney – but her journey is working within the system while fighting it at the same time by supporting these girls through their pregnancies and their post- birth experiences.
“Joan is something of a feminist but she’s also drawn to powerful men. She’s intrigued by them but she also realises she needs their help to get ahead in some ways, so if she has to wrap Dr McNaughton around her finger a little, then so be it.”
The characters of
Love Child and the joys and struggles they deal with are the heart of the series, Marais points out, with the sights, sounds and sensations of the ’ 60s providing a backdrop more than anything else.
“It’s not really nostalgic in terms of the area or the events,” she said.
“It’s more about these people and their lives, although it’s up to the audience to make up their mind about whether things have changed a great deal or if we haven’t actually progressed as much as we think.
“It was a time of moving forward in so many ways, but in other ways we’re still arguing about basic human rights.”