The Hobart


by Stephanie Williams

From humble northern suburb beginnings to on stage in the renowned First Nations musical, The Sunshine Club, Naarah has taken the Australian performing arts world by storm.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now? I grew up in beautiful nipaluna/Hobart in the northern suburbs of Glenorchy. Nowadays, if I’m honest, I technically live in two suitcases whilst life is on the road touring Australia with a musical. It’s a crazy time but there are so many joys to being able to travel and perform at the same time!

Tell us a bit about your work. I’m a performer/actor and work fully within the arts – an absolute blessing. My work is diverse and sees me across many projects and passions including music theatre, social media, radio and TV. Recent gigs include being a national radio host on ABC Classic, touring with The Sunshine Club (currently), featured artist at Australian Music Theatre Festival and a supporting lead in the Amazon Prime TV show Deadloch.

What draws you to music and live performance? We’re so busy and so constantly occupied as humans. Hence the importance of taking people out of their lives momentarily to be in a story or journey, simply feels like a super power.

Naarah performing in The Sunshine Club Production. Pic: Brett Boardman

You’re playing Pearl Doyle in the, The Sunshine Club. What does starring in the show mean for you? The Sunshine Club is a groundbreaking First Nations musical that is gloriously energetic and extremely thought-provoking. This show and story is very important and relevant, even though it was written over twenty years ago by the incredible writer/director and First Nations leader, Wesley Enoch. My role, Pearl, brings a lot of the joy and comedy, which is heavily contrasted by heavy heartbreak in act two. This show ticks so many boxes for me such as working and amplifying First Nations theatre, the challenging and enthralling role of Pearl and getting to take this show to both remote communities and classic Australian stages is such a win! Including the Theatre Royal here in Hobart!

You host a TikTok show called Bad Locals with Ella Watkins. What is it like collaborating together? This was a random idea at 3am one night last year that turned into a $100k TikTok series that is being released later this year! It was a crazy experience putting it together and making it happen, but Ella is a social media genius and her huge audience is going to love it – I’m thrilled to work with her on it and show the world a little more of our beautiful island home Tasmania!

You share on socials that Mummah Barnes is a big part of your life. Tell us about that. My Mummah Barnes (Wendy) is an incredible woman who is my constant and her strong values of community and people have definitely been passed down to me, haha! Working in the arts has forced me to be resilient and often quite alone, my mummah always has my back and is ready to drop anything to help me – including learning lines at 1am. I also can’t wait to see her play my mother in Deadloch!

Naarah and Mummah Barnes

What do you love doing outside work? I love the sun and always find myself outdoors on my days off – I love a coffee in a park, a cafe brunch or finding the local pool/beach for a dip. Plus, I travel with my Playstation as a cheeky game of Fortnite is the easiest way for me to forget about work.

Who do you admire? There are so many strong women in the arts who I look up to and aspire to be like, many being mob too! People such as Deborah Mailman, Maria Lurighi and Leah Purcell are all iconic in their navigation of their artistry and values in a changing and demanding society. The world needs artists and I always admire those making bold choices and holding space.

Favourite podcast or tv show? I’m actually really bad with both of these medias and don’t spend my spare time with them… Although, I have a feeling Deadloch (my first tv show gig) is going to take the number 1 one fave spot as soon as it’s out! I’ve only finished one TV show in my life and it was Suits – I loved it!

Secret vice? Putting things off till the last minute, excessive barista made coffee and paying for entertainment subscriptions that I don’t use.

Naarah at the Grand Canyon, Arizona

What are you reading now (can be books, graphic novels, magazines)? The Space Between by Michelle Andrews and Zara McDonald. “Chaos, questions, magic – welcome to your twenties!”

What gets your goat? Judging a book by its cover.

What was your first job? A netball umpire for the local courts in New Town, soon followed by an eight year stint at Banjos Moonah making coffee and serving baked goods – I had a blast at both!

What are your daily news/social media habits? I love posting about my daily life on social media ‘stories’ and bringing my following into my everyday artsy life. I also love watching TikTok content for new ideas to make my own!

Pearl and Dave Daylight in The Sunshine Club. Pic: Brett Boardman

Your favourite place in Hobart for…

Breakfast: Plain Jane, Moonah

Lunch: Glasshouse – the menu and daylight view are such a treat!

Dinner: Pancho Villa, North Hobart

Coffee: Shake A Leg Jnr, Moonah

Favourite team? Ooh sport! Not really my forte but with my family being from WA, I was definitely born into a big fam of passionate West Coast Eagles supporters.

Favourite Hobart secret? How untouched the Southwest is.

Udderly cool as part of Bad Locals with Ella Watkins. Pic: Instagram

What’s next for you? I’ll be touring Australia with The Sunshine Club until August – after that I’ll be leaving the country after just receiving a full scholarship and place to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London! My masters has been a big dream for a while and I can’t wait to give all my energy to improving my craft in probably the best city in the world to study theatre. A few years ago, I didn’t get into any of the theatre schools here in Australia, so I’m stoked to finally fulfill my dream of theatre school at one of the world’s best. Generally, this season is so exciting – Deadloch release, touring Australia, Bad Locals release, even my debut single will be released this month in June! After such a challenging time during the pandemic, I’m so grateful for this season of opportunity and open doors.

Parting words? I love this magazine – I always pick up a copy whilst I’m grabbing a coffee and read what’s going on, especially concerts I might not know about! Nipaluna is such a special place and it will forever have my heart no matter where the arts takes me x

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May 2024

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