Tiddas, a heart-warming story of sisterhood, is about to make its Sydney debut at Belvoir. The comedy is Wiradjuri Author Anita Heiss’ own stage adaption of her much-loved novel about sisterhood and the deep bonds between women in society and comes to the stage next year as part of the 2024 Sydney Festivals ‘Blak Out’ series.
For actor, and Gudjala Kabulba woman, Lara Croydon, Tiddas is a wholly satisfying exploration of deep female friendships and the power of legacy.
“Tiddas is the story of sisterhood and as women we all share very special bonds with our tiddas” says Croydon. “These women, our friends, our tiddas, are so close that they become family. So often, especially as an Aboriginal woman, I see mostly our people’s traumas on stage. These stories are important to share absolutely, but Tiddas is one of the first times that I have seen this side of my story represented. It shows the side of us that is full love and laughs. Where we poke fun at each other’s dating lives, yarn through work woes, and always make the time to connect even if it is just for a book club once a month.”
Croydon plays Izzy who she describes as being a strong and driven Wiradjuri woman who dreams about becoming Australia’s Oprah so that she can support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories reaching the world. “She cares deeply for people and almost every action she takes is for the betterment of others whether for her friends, her community or her family. She is also a bit of a firecracker when pushed to it. I admire how much she fights for better, how much she fights for others.”
No stranger to the play, Croydon was part of the original cast from the Tiddas season at La Boite Theatre Brisbane Festival last year. ” I was an understudy in the first season of this show, and I remember seeing it staged and thinking, “huh, this could be me and my tiddas sitting around the table” and that really struck a chord with me. It was an absolutely pleasure to be asked to take on the role in the Belvoir season.”
The play guarantees plenty of laughs but it also explores deeper, more serious ground.
“I think one of the things that stands out most to me in Tiddas is the experience of the modern woman within a family,” says Croydon. ” It is the role of the ‘mother’ beyond the traditional format that we are used to seeing, or beyond what we think we already know. We talk about not being able to conceive, about unexpected pregnancy, miscarriage, what happens when all we are known for is being a mother and then our family is grown and no longer need us, it speaks to the significance of aunty-dom, of being a parent to our siblings while we were only young ourselves… and a million other ways that women connect with parenthood and raise the next generations.”
Croydon hopes that the audience leave with an understanding that being a woman is not just one thing. That being an Aboriginal woman does not just look one way. That the joy of sisterhood is in the tribulations just as much as it is in the triumphs. “I hope they understand a little more about what it is to be a woman in this world and the amazing-ness that comes from having Tiddas that walk through it with you.”
Croydon’s journey through the process to date has clearly been a joy, describing the collective rehearsal room as the best.
“It was joyful, silly, supportive… genuinely amazing. I have had the pleasure of being in many rooms with Nadine McDonald-Dowd and honestly, I used to tell people that “I hope I am like Nadine when I grow up” and that sentiment hasn’t changed much. She is a brilliant director and the partnership between her and Aunty Rox is magic. Under their leadership we were doing full runs after 8 days of rehearsal and that was with three new cast members since the 2022 season.”
Croydon says she has always been a bit of a drama queen growing up. With just her and her two sisters on their farm on the outskirts of their little town of about 500 people, imagination, books and TV were her favourite things. “I vividly remember sitting on the school stage when I went to high school in the next town over. It was a much bigger town (about 50 thousand people), so the stage and lights were another world to me. I remember sitting on that stage, while lunch was out for the day and feeling like that was where I was meant to be.”
Croydon studied theatre but strangely found her way into producing before she ever did any acting in a professional capacity. She was, however, a professional circus performer pre-covid. “One performance very close to my heart was a circus show called Chasing Smoke, where me and my five cast mates shared stories of what it means to be Aboriginal in a modern world. It was a very personal performance. It forced me to be vulnerable and honest and 100% me on stage which was very challenging for me. This was also one of the most rewarding shows of my life. I was able to meet many young people afterwards that shared how much this show meant to them. One of my cast mates from that show is also someone that I would now consider a Tidda 100%!”
Even when she was in circus the roles Croydon gravitated towards, and that still hold her heart, are those with meaning – roles that have the capacity to change people’s mind or present a view that people may not have been able to connect with in their everyday lives. “This is what I feel is the best part of art,” she says. “Its capacity for making change.’
Five women, best friends for decades, meet once a month to talk about books, lovers, and the jagged bits of life in between. Dissecting each other’s lives seems the most natural thing in the world and honesty, no matter how brutal, is something they treasure. Best friends tell each other everything, don’t they?
Says Croydon, “Tiddas is fun, raucous and feels like a night out with your girls! Just don’t forget to pack some tissues too!”
January 12 – 28