A NEW AUSTRALIAN FOLK MUSICAL
The Company of Voyage would like to acknowledge the original custodians of the land on which this story takes place; Bidjigal and Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to their Elders, who have been the knowledge keepers of this land for thousands of years.
This work was written on Wurundjeri country.
We would like to acknowledge that the events surrounding colonial invasion can be distressing for First Nations peoples and offer a trigger warning to those who may be affected.
We do recognise that this story is being told from the perspective of white female immigrants.
As a group of Colonial Heritage women today, we would also like to acknowledge the exploitation and displacement that Aboriginal women were forced to endure and survive.
The views of some of the characters in Voyage are not at all representative of our cast or creative team.
We have been privileged to work with Aboriginal consultant and Wiradjuri woman Nola Turner-Jensen. Nola gave us advice, she gave us affirmation but most of all she gave us permission to tell the truth no matter how uncomfortable.
We are grateful to share these stories with you today and do so with the utmost level of respect.
A NEW AUSTRALIAN
It is April, 1833 and a ship full of women leaves from Britain, bound for Australia. With only a single box of necessities below deck, 287 single and free women must endure four gruelling months at sea.
What waits for them at sea will determine their survival.
What waits for them in Sydney will determine their success.
Voyage features actors Penelope Swales and Carly Wilding playing a total of 11 characters between them, accompanied by Helen Begley (writer/guitar), Kylie Morrigan (violin) and Meredith Beardmore (whistles).Voyage was written by Helen Begley and directed by Ruby Rees.
Writer, Helen Begley, brings the worlds of contemporary theatre, Australian Folk Music and Academia together, with a script that emerged from the work of Australian historian, Dr Liz Rushen. Her original songs trace their lineage back to the folk songs of early immigrants through the parlours and music halls of 19th Century Sydney to the stages of contemporary Australian folk festivals. The result is Musical Theatre in the Australian vernacular.
The women’s story is nationally significant, the execution, spare and essential. Two actors are required to portray eleven characters. Three musicians are tasked with underscoring seventeen songs and ninety minutes of theatre.
Voyage is an alternative story of “Mateship.” Without sentimentality, it champions the kind of staunch female friendship that fosters resilience and endurance and maintains hope and humour in the face of hostility. Through this lens it asks audiences to reflect on their attitudes to women, migration, identity, colonisation and racism and questions whether the attitudes of the 19th Century are still mirrored in contemporary Australia.
Helen Begley is a Melbourne Singer/Songwriter with a prevailing interest in writing about Australian women. She presents songs ranging in theme from West Brunswick to Women's history. Her latest folk song cycle is Voyage presented by The Good Girl Song Project. She has appeared in many festivals over the years as a solo artist, with The Good Girl Song Project and Melbourne Folk band, Milk as well as touring nationally. She has written and recorded Voyage with The Good Girl Song Project, two solo albums, The Bride and West Brunswick, written and appeared on three Milk albums and has won several awards for song-writing. Helen also runs her own business, Chicks with Picks Melbourne where she teaches and encourages women to learn ukulele, guitar and songwriting and participate more broadly in music and song making.
Ruby is a female-identifying multi-disciplinary artist currently based in Melbourne. She undertook intensive acting, playwriting and directing training at the world-renowned Herbert Berghof Studio in New York City. She earned her professional writing and editing degree at RMIT University, Melbourne. Ruby was the youngest recipient of the National St Martin’s Playwriting Award in 2010 for her first play Serpents.She completed a residency at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre Company in 2016. She was commissioned by the company to write and direct an original work for their 10th Anniversary Season. Upon her return to Australia, Ruby directed a series of plays for independent Melbourne companies including Simon Stephens’ Punk Rock at renowned Melbourne theatre fortyfivedownstairs, which saw a sold-out season and rave reviews. While at NIDA, Ruby has expanded her practice to include theatre-making, devising, and the adaptation of new works. Voyage allowed Ruby to truly explore new territory, and shape tales of epic proportions with the most minimal means.
2023 CAST & CREW
THE GOOD GIRL/OTHERS, DESIGNER
Carly Wilding is an actor, musician/singer/voice artist/director, and a graduate of the Bachelor of Arts, Acting course in Ballarat. Carly's theatre credits include Olivia in Twelfth Night, Head Chief Rabbit/Musical Director in Wind in the Willows, Duchess in Alice in Wonderland (Australian Shakespeare Company), Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, Miranda in The Tempest (Melbourne Shakespeare Company.) Recently, Carly directed Love's Bitter Mystery, a feature film about James Joyce's life.
Carly has starred in many commercials and fashion films, and Melbourne Fashion Festival's A Victorian Silhouette in association with Sovereign Hill Museum. Recently, Carly voiced several roles in their multi-million dollar live show AURA - now showing. Most recently, Carly has voiced projects for Emmi Climate Solutions, commercials for JOY FM radio, and several commercial voice overs from her new home voice-over studio set-up.
Carly performs regularly with Voyage's Kylie Morrigan, in their musical duo, Morrigan & Wilding. Carly & Kylie perform original music, in which Carly plays the harp, and plays with live looping.
ELIZABETH WADE & OTHERS
Penelope Swales is a musician, actor and human rights lawyer who has been articulating the human condition with passion and humour for over 30 years. She sings about politics, love, friendship, the unbreakable bond between people and dogs and the impact of the Internet on society and relationships. In 2020 she released the digital single The Ides of March in Christchurch and received a personal thanks from NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Adern. She won the 2019 Alistair Hulett Songs for Social Justice Award with her song “Cambridge Analytica” which explores the impact of social media propoganda on democracy. She recently released her 5th CD with festival favourites Totally Gourdgeous and is working on her 11th solo CD with her new band The Stranded Assets.
Penelope has toured extensively throughout Australia, North America and Europe, both solo and with Totally Gourdgeous. In 2007 she featured in the B-day production of The Vagina Monologues at Sydney Theatre. In 2003, her album “Monkey Comfort” received critical acclaim, spending 8 weeks at No. 6 on the Australian Independent Blues and Roots charts. She was a founding member of Melbourne's Styx Performing Troupe and played Elizabeth Wade in a previous iteration of Voyage.
Melbourne based violinist, Kylie Morrigan, began her music training early (age 3) as a classical violinist. After graduating from the Victorian College of the Arts, she played in Orchestra Victoria and various freelance orchestras before retiring to raise and homeschool her 4 children. Kylie has since returned to the world of music performance enjoying a range of playing styles including electro swing, folk and contemporary classical. She currently performs and records amidst a healthy national and international touring schedule with the Formidable Vegetable Sound System, The Simon Kerr
Perspective, artist Mal Webb, electronic artist ‘Spoonbill’ and the Ad Hoc Music Collective.
ORIGINAL CAST: 2020-2022
PENNY LARKINS - ELIZABETH WADE & OTHERS/PRODUCER
CARLY WILDING - THE GOOD GIRL & OTHERS + DESIGNER
HELEN BEGLEY - GUITAR & WRITER
KYLIE MORRIGAN - VIOLIN
PENELOPE SWALES - WHISTLES & E.W UNDERSTUDY
LIZ RUSHEN - AUTHOR, SINGLE AND FREE
NOLA TURNER-JENSEN - INDIGENOUS CONSULTANT
CORA BROWNE - IRISH CONSULTANT
META COHEN - DRAMATURG
Pictured: A previous iteration of Voyage - Photo by David Wayman
Penelope Swales, Helen Begley, Penny Larkins, Sally Taylor, Carmen O'Brien, Jamie Molloy
“When you pick up your program, make sure you put a big circle around a performance of
The Good Girl: A Song Project.
We were delighted by it at Maldon. Helen’s songs are gritty, evocative and pull no punches. Jamie and Penelope contribute beautifully to the music on concertina and whistle and Penny and Penelope breathe life and warmth into the characters.
– Jane Harding, audience member
The Good Girl Song Project presents “Voyage”, a new theatrical song cycle that explores the precarious lives of immigrant women in 19th century Australia.
Songwriter and musician, Helen Begley and actor and singer, Penny Larkins established The Good Girl Song Project to produce original song cycles with theatrical elements and accompanying workshops that explore Australian women’s history. The Project’s main objectives are to raise awareness of women’s stories and to invite audiences and workshop participants to reflect on women’s place in their personal and community histories.
RESEARCH & INSPIRATION
Voyage is largely based on the writing and research of Dr. Liz Rushen. Liz has been an enormous support to the Good Girl Song Project from its early beginnings. With books including Single and Free, Colonial Duchesses, and The Merchant's Women, Liz' extraordinary knowledge of early migration to Australia, along with Helen's extensive research, has largely formed the historical backbone of our show.
Dr Liz Rushen is an historian, lecturer, researcher, author and publisher committed to community engagement in history and heritage.
Liz currently works in multiple fields as an historian (author, researcher and speaker), publisher (a director of Anchor Books Australia) and community engagement (a director of Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network and former chair, History Council of Victoria).
An independent scholar, Liz was awarded a PhD in history from Monash University in 1999. Writing under the name Elizabeth Rushen, she has published widely, mainly in the field of migration history and women in colonial Australia, including Single and Free: female migration to Australia, 1833-1837 and a social history, Bishopscourt Melbourne: official residence and family home.
In 2018-2019 Liz was awarded a Creative Fellowship by the State Library Victoria to research the life and writings of Edmund Finn (‘Garryowen’), a project which is ongoing. Liz’s first biography was a study of the life of John Marshall, a nineteenth-century shipowner and emigration agent, who was actively involved in the reorganisation of Lloyd’s Register of Shipping and whose work had a huge impact on the Port Phillip District.
Liz regularly speaks at conferences, to community groups and local historical societies. She co-hosted a weekly history hour on ABC 774 in 2004 and since then has appeared on TV, in newspaper articles and has been interviewed for broadcast media.