Brisbane stories are set to bloom with the jacarandas when Anita Heiss’s 'Tiddas' hits the stage during Brisbane Festival.
A play which champions the domestic, 'Tiddas' opens the page in a book club. An innocuous setting which provides the springboard for the beauty and the complexity of female friendship.
Based on best-selling author Anita Heiss’s 2014 novel, 'Tiddas' follows Izzy, Veronica, Xanthe, Nadine and Ellen in their monthly book club. They navigate joy and turmoil in their careers, family lives, and identities until age-old secrets emerge to threaten their seemingly unbreakable bond.
“I wanted to write something for my beautiful female friends here in Brisbane and the strength of my own relationships with the tiddas in my life, around the theme of what binds women together during difficult times,” Anita says.
“They experience unconditional love for each other even though they may come to loggerheads. You manage to forgive and move forward because the whole of life's journey is often more important than one particular moment.”
'Tiddas' in Aboriginal language translates to ‘women who are like sisters’ and the play features five women who live in iconic Brisbane locales from West End to Kangaroo Point, with the Brisbane River weaving throughout.
Image © Morgan Roberts
They each arrive in Brisbane having grown up together in Mudgee, mirroring Heiss’s own journey from her upbringing in Wiradyuri Country.
“I wanted to have a connection to Wiradyuri Country,” Anita explains. “It shows how [Indigenous people] can live off our traditional lands but still maintain connection to Country and find a sense of place where we are. It allows for a contemporary understanding of how we place ourselves today even though we’re living in major cities.”
'Tiddas' follows in an emerging tradition of uniquely Brisbane stories, with 2021’s 'Boy Swallows Universe' presented in similar style. The Brisbane-based renaissance of storytelling champions local stories by local authors.
“What we're seeing now is that these local stories are getting the profile that they deserve,” Anita says.
“Brisbane is like the fancy car in the garage that only gets pulled out on the weekends, it’s sort of hidden away and I really want to be out driving every day of the week.”
Image © Morgan Roberts
“I wanted to write something about Brisbane to show people that this city has all the hospitality of a small country town and the life, arts, and excitement of a big city.”
A keen sense of place provides the backdrop to a story where the personal is political. The characters deal with inner turmoil as well as the influence of political events such as Roe v Wade and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I want people to feel so I used the opportunity to really push the boundaries on the politics and the drama,” Anita describes.
The initial pitch for the novel 'Tiddas' included five First Nations characters, which was revised to three by the publisher for reasons of diversity.
“It was a difficult pill for me to swallow,” Anita says. “There are no publishers in the country telling their authors they need to have more Black characters.”
Anita says she used the opportunity as a springboard for deeper insight into the lived experience of First Nations women, around language and identity, and fundamentally the connection between women within a complex world.
'Tiddas' plays La Boite Theatre as part of Brisbane Festival from 5-24 September.