Arts Review: Deer Woman

Deer Woman - Arts Centre

“What I am doing is illegal,” Lila announces. 

But it’s a matter-of-fact, not a roadblock.

A Blackfoot warrior woman, daughter of a hunter, and, in a country where 1,600 Indigenous women and girls are officially recognised as being missing or murdered, she’s the sister of one.

Not a woman you want to cross.

Hardened by years of trailer park life and military service, she’s hell bent on vengeance, and nothing is going to hold her back. 

Deer Woman is part of Big World, Up Close a series of performances at the Arts Centre that puts the spotlight on First Nations artists from across the globe and their powerful and compelling stories.

The play is a highlight - created by ARTICLE 11, an international leader in Indigenous activist arts - the show premiered in New Zealand in 2018 and was a favourite at the 2019 Sydney Festival.

Rightly so - it’s a captivating performance from actor and activist Cherish Violet Blood. She has a way of holding the mirror up to ourselves and challenging our expectations. 

Her Lila is the definition of badass, with an almost shocking brutality - that wouldn’t be half as shocking if it was not her, but a man centre-stage.

The story is presented in a way that’s half blair-witch, half black-ops. Perched on her esky, Lila’s speech is directed not at the audience but at her camcorder, which would seem almost confessional, if only she felt even a little guilty. 

Writer Tara Beagan is clever and sharp, and shines throughout, punching all the right notes.

In a world where Lila’s experience is the lived experience of women around the world, she asks how we can pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves on having feelings after going to a show and crying for a minute.

But as Lila would say, crying doesn’t fix anything - only action. And she’s determined to take it into her own hands.

Her esky is her soapbox. She’s determined to stand on it, and she will be heard.


Deer Woman
is the closing performance of the Big World, Up Close series at Arts Centre Melbourne, showing until September 2. Tickets can be found