In the beginning were the words: haunting, evocative, rising from a deep place of suffering, hurt and survival.
Please don't push me one more time into this hole
No light and no air… He uses me I'm the bone – he's the dog
Then there was the music. Noonan's voice, at times lyrical and melodic, capturing beauty and melancholy and fleeting joy, at times sharp and cutting, capturing agony and anger. Noonan again on the grand piano, and Benjamin Haupmann on mandolin, banjo, and guitar. Zoe Hauptmann on a double bass equally at home with jazz solos, and laying down a rich melodic backing. The Gossamer string quartet – violins, violo and cello, weaving a complex tapestry of sound.
And behind, between, and in front of them all Melissa Knowles, Kate Muntz and Jessica Ward, from Circa, embodying strength, endurance, and risk, as they seem to fly and bend and climb and drop to the music.
Together these components fused together to present a portrait of a world not so long gone, when women were sentenced to deportation for trivial crimes, and in a harsh world of one woman to nine men were vulnerable and exploited by their overseers and their fellow convicts.
And always there are those words : here depicting the fierce love of mother for child;
Love like hunger eating through me Buttoned up on my chest.. Space between us, blue as oceans
Gold as sunshine, red as my blood
Gently Noonan celebrates the sisterhood of brave women;
I was down on my luck and you picked me up
I was only a breath from despair
I was down on my luck and you cleaned me up
There was nothing that you couldn't bear
Sixteen songs combined to paint an unforgettable picture of courage and resilience in the face of suffering – of people sentenced by an inflexible government to a suffering far beyond anything that their crimes might have warranted.
It was an unforgettable evening, and as we left some of us wondered if in the future there might be an evening like this, perhaps in a different musical idiom, singing of leaky boats, inflexible governments, and women and children behind razor wire.