The currency of standing ovations has been somewhat devalued in recent times. Standing ovations used to be special but now they seem to be expected.

So, it sometimes takes me a minute or two to finally succumb although there have been times when I have defiantly remained seated at the end of a show.

However, RBG: Of Many, One, Suzie Miller’s one-woman play starring Heather Mitchell, is worthy of a standing ovation every night and I happily sprang to my feet at the close. It’s on until May 26 in the Playhouse at QPAC and everyone should see this.

Nights at the theatre can be dreary and disappointing at times and you end up looking more at your watch than at what is on stage. I can say, however, I was rivetted in this case. This play is utterly compelling – edifying, entertaining, funny, sad.  A cautionary tale at times, too, since it deals with American politics and the threats to democracy we face.

This is all investigated through the life of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to be appointed to the US Supreme Court, a woman who helped changed the face of the American legal system and blazed the trail for women. She fought for gender equality and reproductive rights and her life is brought to the stage by an Australian who is, I think, the hottest playwright in the world right now.

Suzie Miller’s hit play Prima Facie, also a tour de force, is now being performed all over the world and RBG: Of Many, One, deserves to be too.

When I interviewed Heather Mitchell a month or so ago, she described Miller as “like dynamite” and couldn’t believe her luck to be starring in this extraordinary piece. Miller writes beautifully and has a knack for engaging rather than lecturing. She gets her message across by entertaining us, shocking us at times and making us laugh and cry. There’s even music as there should be since RBG, as she was known, was an opera buff.

There are musicals that spend millions on shows full of colour and movement, signifying nothing. Here is a spare show, a few props – a chair, a phone and several costume changes but no bells and whistles.

Director Priscilla Jackman has masterfully crafted a framework for this story with Miller’s words and Mitchell’s stupendous performance.

For an hour and forty minutes Mitchell is RBG. She manages to play multiple other characters, too, as clever asides. Her Bill Clinton is brilliant, her Obama is too and her Trump is comic-tragic. She’s serious at times, funny at other times, sometimes hilarious. It seems like a stand-up comedy act sometimes and then it is a drama of Shakespearean dimensions. And in the arc of the performance, we follow RBG’s entire life.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in 2020 at the age of 87 after living an amazing life. She made some mistakes – not that many – along the way and the play is candid about that. Her public criticism of Trump while a sitting judge was a regret, she confesses but, of course, her criticisms of him were not unfounded.

She was resolutely optimistic about the future of America and democracy throughout her life.

Look, I won’t bang on. I will just say that Heather Mitchell’s performance is nothing short of astounding and you must see this play. Let me know if there is a standing ovation at the performance you see. I’d be shocked if there wasn’t.

RBG: Of Many, One, until May 26, Playhouse, QPAC

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