As we look back from this my 99th episode of Streets of Your Town podcast, I’m returning to some of those wonderful Australians with more of a story to tell.
Today we’re revisiting Vidya Makan, who you may remember from her episode in December last year when she was one of the performers in the smash hit touring musical Six.
The show broke all attendance records at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre during its 2022 season.
But this Somerville House and Queensland Conservatorium graduate has not left her run there, and has now debuted her own original musical written in collaboration with Sonya Suares, at Sydney’s Hayes Theatre, again to rave reviews.
We go backstage at the Hayes Theatre on this episode of Streets of Your Town, to speak to Vidya after yet another standing ovation for her musical The Lucky Country, and find out how this acclaimed Brisbane actor, singer and composer/lyricist came to realise a dream that she could be seen for who she truly is on stage.
“I think this country needs this kind of work and this work in particular, and these artists, you want to see these artists just shine. I’m really looking forward to what the future holds with it and taking it around this as we say, lucky country,” Vidya said.
“I can’t believe that people are laughing at this because this was me in my bedroom going, ‘hee hee hee I think this is funny’. So it’s really cool also seeing the way that’s getting read.”
It’s taken more than five years from Vidya’s first conception of the musical to it finally being performed, an incredible achievement in this country where so few Australian musicals make it to stage, particularly in the most competitive theatrical realm of Sydney.
“It’s been a real journey this one. I started writing it in 2018. Back then it had a different title. It was called My Home Too,” Vidya said.
“Every time I’d go and watch Australian musical theatre and Australian commercial musical theatre, I’d be really excited cause I’m like, great, this is new work.
“But then I’d get there and the people of colour on stage were always the butt of the jokes and they were the butt of really racist jokes.
“And I obviously felt a heartbreak at that because this is an industry and a genre which I love. But also I’m like, we are so much funnier than that. We don’t need to revert to that to be funny and to be Aussie.
“The seed for it was very much out of a frustration of wanting to be part of the narrative.”
Her resulting production The Lucky Country challenges Australia’s national identity.
“How can we as settler Australia recognise and listen to First Nations Australia, despite being the beneficiaries of their dispossession,” she said.
“How do we lean into that conversation? It’s a really hard conversation to have. And what we’ve tried to do with this piece is lead into the really hard conversations and not be scared of them and not walk away.”
In its review The Sydney Morning Herald described Vidya as “a gifted storyteller”, and her show The Lucky Country as “remarkable”, where “national myth-making gets a well overdue shake-up”.
Vidya’s persistence and consultation with First Nations artists has paid off in the show.
“I feel so proud of what we’ve created. The way audiences are reacting is mind-blowing,” she said.
“We’ve had a standing O pretty much every night and it blows my mind that it’s taken this long for this kind of work to. It shouldn’t be groundbreaking, but it is.”
She encouraged us all to persist with our dreams and overcome the obstacles, to have our voice heard.
“Sometimes when you realise your dreams, you realise things that you may not have thought you would’ve felt and certain things became realities and I feel like I found a real peace within myself,” she said.
“Hang in there, find your people and believe in it. And don’t, don’t, don’t let the world not see it. Share your voice because it needs to be heard.”