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Kate Kelly’s life and death to be showcased in upcoming play

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A NEW play is set to take to the stage this month, telling the story of Ned Kelly’s often forgotten sister Kate who had strong ties to the Beveridge area.

‘Fire in the Head’ tells the unheard story of Kate Kelly’s life and death, whose role and experiences of violence at the hands of her husband and the police were central to the Kelly story.

Playwright Rosemary Johns said the idea behind telling the story was to bring a new perspective to Ned Kelly’s legacy.

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“As a woman in the society of the time [Kate] was very isolated, there was a lot of injustice and it was often very unfair,” she said.

“I wanted to try and look at the Kelly story through the woman’s eyes and let people decide how they feel about it all.”

Ms Johns became involved with the Kelly story in 2005 when she and several other playwrights were commissioned to put together a story focusing on the life of Ned’s mother Ellen and by extension, Kate.

The story effectively ended with Ned’s execution, and it was not until spending time in Ireland some years later that Ms Johns became motivated to finish the story of Kate.

“It started in 2017 as a theatre script and it actually made a final shortlist in 2018 for the BBC International Playwriting Awards,” Ms Johns said.

“I sent it unsolicited to Abbey Theatre in Dublin where they not only read it but also gave me feedback and commended it for its storytelling.”

It was recommended to Ms Johns that the play was performed in Australia given the Kellys’ connection to the country. She later applied for and received a Yarra City Arts grant to put the play together.

Ms Johns said a lot of pieces came together to help make the play a reality.

“We’re very lucky to have the cast we have and all the connections between people familiar with the story and those that are interested,” she said.

“We have Peter O’Shea playing Celtic Irish music on the fiddle due to the country’s connections and involvement at the time of Ned Kelly.

“Our director Rodney Hall is a very highly regarded director but he’s graciously given his time to direct the play and he’s helped it through its development.

“We’re just really happy to be able to put this on with talented people who are genuinely interested.”

Ms Johns wants people from the region to see the play due to its relevance to the Beveridge area and hopes to eventually tour it.

The play will be running from March 16 to 27 at La Mama Theatre in Carlton. For more information and to book, click here.

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