All Aussie drama Redfern Now.......................
An all-Aboriginal drama, series set in Redfern, delivers a ‘modern corroboree’, writes Holly Byrnes
LEAH Purcell is a big-game player, a no-nonsense actor, writer and director. Asked about her involvement in the creation and production of Redfern Now, an all-Aboriginal drama series for ABC1, she says: ‘‘I was (indigenous rugby league star) Johnathan Thurston out there. I had moves to make, set plays to deliver. And it was all about teamwork.’’
Redfern Now, six stories exploring contemporary inner city indigenous life, features powerful story telling and remarkable performances from a cast led by Purcell, Deborah Mailman, Jimi Bani and Kelton Pell.
Each episode tells the tale of a different family ‘‘whose lives are changed by a momentary decision, accident or insignificant incident’’.
The ground-breaking opportunity to tell their own stories, like a ‘‘modern corroboree’’ says Purcell, made her feel like an indigenous footballer making an Australian or State Of Origin team for the first time.
‘‘There was a responsibility that we were out there representing,’’ she says. ‘‘I think it’s the most mature acting I’ve done,’’ she says.
In the launch episode Family, Purcell plays Grace, whose husband and children are preparing to go on a holiday when she receives a desperate phone call from her sister’s son, who says his mother is having a breakdown.
Torn between her duty as wife and mother and stepping up to help her extended clan, Purcell delivers a performance of quiet desperation.
The TV project was a joint production between the ABC and the Indigenous department of Screen Australia, in collaboration with creator and writer Jimmy McGovern. But it was ultimately left to local talent to see the stories through to screening.
Purcell jokes: ‘‘It was time to see if we could prove that we’re as deadly as we say we are. I believe we have.’’
Asked why it has taken so long for such a program to air, she is frank.
‘‘I don’t think we would have been experienced enough to do this 20 years ago. We had to earn our stripes and learn. This is as black as it’s going to get,’’ she says.
Redfern Now: Thursday, 8.30pm, ABC1.