8 April 2024

Law, politics and power: An uplifting new play exploring the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

| Emma Batchelor
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Heather Mitchell as Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Heather Mitchell plays the titular role of US Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Photo: Prudence Upton.

Following a sold-out season in Sydney comes RBG: Of Many, One, a new play from Olivier-award-winning playwright Suzie Miller.

Starring Heather Mitchell in the titular role of US Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg, RBG is powerful, poignant and uplifting.

The play first took root during a COVID-19 lockdown when Miller, who has long been friends with actor Heather Mitchell, was recovering from an injury.

“Heather was looking after me, visiting me and cooking for me,” Miller shares over the phone from London.

“One day, I told her that I really wanted to write a play about RBG, and she said, ‘you know, someone once told me I look like her’, and I thought, oh my god, you do! You should be in it!”

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After successfully pitching the play to the Sydney Theatre Company, Miller made it a condition that Mitchell take on the role, for which she has received outstanding reviews.

“Women actors don’t grow up with a trajectory of roles like Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear,” says Miller.

“I hope to offer actors that aren’t usually cast in massive roles something that is a real tour de force, where they can be the centre of everything. It’s a political gesture in and of itself.”

The role of Ruth Bader Ginsberg within RGB is certainly a massive one.

Heather Mitchell as Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Lead actor Heather Mitchell has now received outstanding reviews for her role. Photo: Prudence Upton.

Charting her life from ages 13 to 87, the play sheds light on the woman behind the indomitable public figure, detailing her fierce advocacy for reproductive rights from her teenage years in New York through to her time on the Supreme Court.

“There is something so uplifting about her life,” Miller explains.

“She was such a remarkable woman, a phenomenal powerhouse. She had so many experiences and she spoke and wrote so profoundly. There are so many points for people to attach themselves to within her story.”

Miller, who has a Masters in Law, is no stranger to shaping characters versed in the legal world.

Her critically acclaimed play Prima Facie (performed in Canberra in 2019) follows criminal lawyer Tessa, who finds herself on the other side of the bar as a defendant in a sexual assault case.

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The play, now also a novel, offers a searing indictment of our legal system, particularly its failure to provide reliable pathways to justice for women in rape, sexual assault and harassment cases.

Connecting deeply with audiences, Prima Facie has gone on to be performed around the world, including on the West End, where it stars Jodie Comer.

“It’s kind of crazy.” Miller laughs.

“I have just been on a tour of Germany, and at one point, I found myself sitting in front of 800 people with an actress reading from the book, and I couldn’t tell which section she was reading because I don’t speak German. It was a very odd moment.”

Miller will soon be returning to Australia and will be in Canberra for the opening night of RBG.

“I am very interested to see how RBG goes in Canberra. It is the centre of judges and politicians and the play is very much about those things.”

RBG: Of Many, One is at the Canberra Theatre Centre from 11 to 21 April 2024. Tickets from the Canberra Theatre.

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