The Sapphires

Despite likeable performances and the larger than life presence of Australian Idol winner Casey Donovan, this show from Belvoir and Black Swan State Theatre company really is something of a wasted opportunity.

The programme notes reveal that writer Tony Briggs’ Yorta Yorta mother Laurel and a couple of her cousins really did move from the country to Melbourne where they performed their close harmonies at the Tiki Village nightclub and – and here’s the potentially interesting bit – she and her sister
subsequently spent three months touring Vietnam as the Sapphires in the late 60’s.

Briggs throws in a few politically pointed comments – both about the status of Aboriginal women in their native land and the plight of the Vietnamese in their own war-torn country – and some tart repartee.

But much of the writing is lazy, and, though differentiated, the four who make up this feisty, fictionalised Sapphire quartet are pretty one-dimensional – they sing and they have various degrees of man trouble.

Ultimately, then, this is mainly an excuse to belt out some of the era’s irresistible Motown hits (and a scattering of traditional songs, too) and on this level Neil Armfield’s production with its five-strong on-stage band is a definite success – earning a standing ovation from a satisfied crowd at a Sunday matinee.


Silk Street
020 7638 8891
Tube: Barbican
Until March 12
£16 – £28

– Louise Kingsley