The Sapphires (play)

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This article is about the play. For the film adaptation of the play, see The Sapphires (film).

The Sapphires is an Australian play written by Tony Briggs and directed by Wesley Enoch.[1] It is set in 1968 (a year after the referendum expanding the rights of Aborigines) and it tells the story of The Sapphires, a singing group of four Yorta Yorta women who tour Vietnam during the war.[2][3]

It was inspired by the true story of Briggs's mother, Laurel Robinson, and aunt, Lois Peeler, who toured Vietnam as singers.[4] The pair slept on the stage, as Robinson recalled: "It was so scary – one night a bomb went off, the bed fell down and the place shook."[5]

Though set at the time of increasing calls for Aboriginal rights, the play takes these issues seriously but in a way that doesn't detract from its fun and humour and adds to its entertainment value.[4]

Original production[edit]

The play debuted with the Melbourne Theatre Company in 2004 and continued at Sydney's Company B in 2005. The original cast included Deborah Mailman, Rachael Maza, Ursula Yovich and Lisa Flanagan.[6]

Other productions[edit]

It was revived by Black Swan and Company B in 2010, with Christine Anu, Casey Donovan, Hollie Andrew and Kylie Farmer playing the lead roles.[6][7] The show ran at Deagu International Music Festival mid-2010 where Donovan won the award for Best Supporting Actress.[8] This company also toured to Adelaide and was a part of the Adelaide Festival. In 2011 The lead cast was Donovan, Lisa Maza, Ngaire Pigram and Megan Sarmardin.[9]

The show appeared at the Barbican Centre in London for two weeks in March 2011.[10][11] The four leading cast members were Donovan, Maza, Pigram and Sarmardin.[12] The rest of the cast was Aljin Abella, Jimi Bani, Markus Hamilton and Oliver Wenn.

Film version[edit]

Main article: The Sapphires (film)

Production of the movie version began in 2011. The leads have gone to Deborah Mailman (from the original production), Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell. Although Donovan received strong reviews in the 2010 production, and auditioned for the movie version, she was ultimately not chosen to star.[11]



  1. ^ Thomson, Helen (19 November 2004), "Black sisters singing up a storm", The Age 
  2. ^ Doyle, Brendan (9 February 2005), "Black sisters singing up a storm", Green Left Weekly (614) 
  3. ^ Hallett, Bryce (11 January 2005), "The Sapphires, Company B", Sydney Morning Herald 
  4. ^ a b Usher, Robin (15 November 2004), "Sparkle, in any colour", The Age 
  5. ^ Dow, Steve (23 May 2010), "Shining through", Sydney Morning Herald 
  6. ^ a b Boland, Michaela (19 January 2010), "Second life for acclaimed show", The Australian 
  7. ^ Blake, Jason (29 May 2010), "Sass, soul and old-school panache in musical gem", Sydney Morning Herald 
  8. ^ "Big win for Casey", The Cairns Post, 7 July 2010 
  9. ^ Williams, Jacqueline (10 February 2011), "Gem of a story behind sparkling musical", Canberra Times 
  10. ^ Donoughue, Paul (30 October 2011), "Women bring their message", Sunday Mail 
  11. ^ a b "Casey Donovan's omission from a film version of show The Sapphires", The Daily Telegraph, 30 July 2011 
  12. ^ Gardner, Lyn (8 March 2011), "Review: Theatre: A sleek shambles as Aboriginal Supremes rock the troops: The Sapphires Barbican, London 2/5", The Guardian 
  13. ^ "Opera outshines cast of stars at Helpmann Awards". ABC. 9 August 2005. Retrieved 21 May 2012.