Andrea James talks all things Evonne in Sunshine Super Girl

Just before wrapping up for 2018, we produced the next stage of development of a landmark new Australian work – Sunshine Super Girl by Andrea James.

Bringing the life story of international tennis superstar and Australian sporting legend Evonne Goolagong to the stage for the first time, this new work follows her career from regional NSW to Centre Court at Wimbledon.

Thom sat down with Andrea after the development to find out how it went, some key discoveries, and what it was like having your subject, Evonne herself, in the room for your showing!

All images by Jhuny-Boy Borja.

Thom: What was it about Evonne’s story that sparked your interest?
Andrea: It’s such a beautiful story about talent and fate, where all of the stars aligned in Evonne’s childhood at the right time and right place for her to become a world champion. She had the same upbringing as my dad who lived on a fringe camp outside of town, and to see a young Aboriginal girl from the bush reach the heights of international tennis fame is such an inspiring and hopeful story.

The story brims with inevitable politics and a longing for home and family. I was also struck by how the little wheatbelt town of Barellan got behind this girl and her family and supported her talents – it’s such a good news story, and we could do with some more good news stories in our lives! And, finally, it’s about time that the incredible achievements of our first Aboriginal World Champion are celebrated on stage.

Thom: What was the main focus of this stage of development? How did you feel it all went?
Andrea: I always knew that this play must be physically epic! And that’s where the incredible Vicki Van Hout comes in to play. Evonne’s main language is physical and she was renowned for her grace on the court. We want to create a physical language that speaks to Evonne’s passion, culture and spirit without mimicking tennis. We want the movement language to reflect the overall arc of Evonne’s epic journey and to marry the storytelling with this robust and impressive choreography.

We got a few of the scenes off book so that we could really see the work fly and watch the easy flow of text and movement.  I was able to really locate a style for the work and to consider the broader implications of sub-text and metaphor for the next stages of the work.

Thom: What was it like having Evonne in the room for the showing?
Andrea: Having Evonne and her husband Roger in the room certainly kept us on our toes. Evonne is a living legend and the stakes have been high in the telling of this story.  We all wanted to get it right, but have enough room for fun and play.

Fortunately Evonne is very down to earth and immediately made everyone feel at ease. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to have your life story played out before you and she was genuinely moved at the end – and even inspired enough to show Vicki some of her signature moves!

Most importantly, she showed everyone the correct grip of a racquet!  A great and memorable day for all.

Thom: What was your experience of working with a producer on this stage of development like?
Andrea: I thought working with Performing Lines meant “hurray, no more funding applications and god-awful schmoozing” – but Performing Lines is much more than that.

It’s the creatively sharp conversations pushing me out of my comfort zones, it’s the pick-me-ups when you’re self-doubting and it’s the huge creative heart of the team and the Indigenous-friendly foundation that means so much to me.  It means that I can create fully with my body and soul and that’s a real gift.

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