Sunday 28 April 2024

RBG: Of Many, One review

There isn't much new to say about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was the second ever woman - and first Jewish woman - to serve as a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, where she spent her time as an advocate for women's right and gender equality. In RBG: Of Many, One, playwright Suzie Miller traces Ginsburg's life from her Brooklyn-based childhood in the 30s through to her death in 2020, at the age of 87.

Miller covers many of the milestones in Ginsburg's life, whether they be personal or professional, negative or positive. Telling the life of a person whom most people know can result in a paint-by-numbers structure as we move towards their death but in this play, Miller has Ginsburg constantly moving from the past to the present and swapping emotions and storytelling devices without notice. It builds tension and surprise, where even though we know what happens to Ginsburg, we don't know how it is going to unfold and how it will be presented in this instance.

Heather Mitchell gives an outstanding performance as the titular Justice. You get chills watching her as she lets Ginsburg take over her mind, body and soul, and at times you could swear it was Ginsburg on stage. Mitchell's physicality is beyond belief, where she is able to virtually shrink herself to Ginsburg's stature and capture her delicate and petite frame. Through Jennifer White’s guidance, Mitchell transforms her voice and accent, finding an authenticity between that of a New York accent and a woman who grew up in Brooklyn.

Mitchell convincingly conveys the various joys, disappointments and frustrations that Ginsburg experienced, particularly her regret over her criticisms of Donald Trump when he was running for President in 2016. Apart from playing Ginsburg, Mitchell takes on all the supporting roles, including her husband, Barack Obama and Trump, which is a comedy masterstroke while still holding on to the drama that is unravelling. Director Priscilla Jackman does a fantastic job of crafting such a flawless performance from Mitchell.

David Fleischer's set design is minimal but sophisticated and stylish. The majority of the play takes place with a single upholstered chair on the stage, and at other times, two stagehands add or remove props to the stage. White drapes run along the back of the stage that are indicative of the opulence that Ginsburg lived in.

The lighting design by Alexander Berlage lays the foundations of the tone for each episode of Ginsburg's life, from warmer hues when she recalls fond memories of her past to cold, blinking lights when she is stressed or anxious. Other scenes are lit in red or blue, that while having their own effect, hint to her devotion to America and the American people.

Paul Charlier's composition and sound magnificently expresses Ginsburg's frame of mind, through selected opera music and arias. Ginsburg was a lover of opera and through Charlier's design, we get to see Ginsburg more as a person and less of an authority figure, which allows us to connect with her further and strengthens the intimacy being created by Jackman.

While this story is about the importance of what Ruth Bader Ginsburg achieved and her legacy, it remains a universal story that all can appreciate. Regardless of how much you know about Ginsburg on a professional level, it is impossible to not get swept into the human drama and passion of RBG: Of Many, One. Mitchell gives her all in what could be a performance of a lifetime, and is equally supported by a superb design team and an incredible director.


Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne
 until 12 May | Tues 6:30pm, Wed - Sat 7:30pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 5pm
95 minutes
 $64 - $149
Arts Centre Melbourne

Image credit: Prudence Upton


  1. Are there any more shows going to happen

    1. My Melbourne Arts6 May 2024 at 20:07

      It's on for another week!

  2. Just saw the play, and loved it, just proves that being every successful woman is a man.