Theatre review: Mother May We

A powerful meld of performance art, dancing and poetry inspired by BIPOC artists.

Written and performed by the poetic and powerful performance artist Mel Ree, Mother May We is ‘a motivational manifesto for how to heal’.

Ree is a regular on the Sydney spoken word scene; hosting, featuring, and supporting others to try their voices at slams across the city. She also hosts her own Revolution Renegade, a regular curated night for the community to gather, hold space, heal and nourish the soul.

Mother May We blends Ree’s talents in acting, dancing, speaking, and healing to bring a fun, introspective performance to Griffin’s stage. Forged from interviews with 10 powerful artists who identify as BIPOC, it follows the struggle to become yourself when faced with the trauma of your ancestors and the shame they pass down the family line.

Ree is a charismatic and welcoming performer. She draws you in with vivid, easy-to-follow and funny poetry that suddenly shifts to become a sacred tribute to the witches of Papua New Guinea, or an invitation to welcome a healing experience. The words she speaks are at once intensely relatable and powerfully her own. Her command of rhythm and pace is excellent.

The epic poem takes shape on a bare stage, the walls adorned with hooks and shelves carrying the various costumes, identities and people Ree becomes. Lighting by Frankie Clarke, projection design by Nema Adel and sound design by Steven Khoury are a perfect accompaniment to Ree’s words, bringing a great visual aspect to the different tones of each section. Particularly beautiful moments included white swirling projections across the stage and Ree’s body, and some excellent use of colour during the ‘club’ sections of the poem; pink lights shone down from above, and Mel was lit up in green from below.

Costumes range from the traditional dress of Ree’s Papua New Guinean mothers and grandmothers to a sheer green dress adorned with balloons. Some costume choices felt unnecessary, adding a cumbersome element to the performance, and hindering the pace at which Ree switched between sections of the poem. Perhaps one less costume change would have allowed the words to speak for themselves, and with Ree’s talents in speaking and movement it’s not hard to imagine they could have. 

Read: Dance review: Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon

It’s an interesting experience to see a performance artist/poet move into what can be a suffocating new environment. The theatre is not a particularly welcoming place for those of us who are different, and for those of us who dare to cross boundaries, and it is a testament to Griffin Theatre Company and to Ree that they have brought poetry of this kind to a mainstage audience.

An invitation to heal, an invitation to enjoy, and an invitation to try something new for a short hour under the moonlight. 

Mother May We by Mel Ree
Griffin Theatre Company
SBW Stables Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Writer and Performer: Mel Ree
Lighting Designer: Frankie Clarke
Projection Designer: Nema Adel
Dramaturg: Jackson Used
Stage Manager: Natalie Low

Producer: Bec Annetts
Production Manager: Saint Clair
Production Assistant: Defne
Tickets: $40

Mother May We will be performed until 8 October 2022.

Charlotte Smee is a theatre critic, poet and industrial relations lawyer working and playing on Gadigal land. They are the editor of Kaleidoscope Arts Journal (on Instagram @kaleidoscopeartsjournal). Charlotte is passionate about bringing new audiences (and voices) to the theatre and does so every week by dragging her housemates, workmates and other mates to theatres all over Sydney. Find their website at