The Vegemite TalesPhotos - Greg Funnell | Focus52 Photography

At first glance at the set, this production has the looming feeling that it may be very stereotypical and very predictable. FHM girls, photographs and drawings cover the wall; Lonely Planet guides are the only books in the house, Fosters beer, a surfboard, mismatched charity shop furniture and a guitar. It’s like Home and Away on a budget.

Though I was pleasantly surprised by The Vegemite Tales despite the embarrassingly Aussie title being strewn over London, dangerously close to the Walkabout pub. This production was a big daggy, silly and hilariously funny ocker romp which any traveler – not just young Aussies in London – will be able to relate to.

Throughout the show I noticed that the audience had quite divided themselves. The raucous convict bogans (aka us Aussies) were sitting at the back howling with laughter and the familiarity of the situation and the London locals were in front and rather more demure about the whole thing. We were laughing at The Vegemite Tales because it reminded us of ourselves, the English were laughing because they think we’re nutters.

It is rare that I see a cast meld so well together. There is no upstaging, no obvious mistakes; it all gelled very well and even the dancing, media and sex incorporations went off with a bang. Yes, sure, there are some stereotypically forced Melbournian accents, some comments on the county bumpkin hippy state of Perth, Sydney-siders obsessing over their own fame and no mention of Adelaide or Canberra…but who ever remembers them anyway? It’s all mixed in with a good dose of dry Australian humour and slapstick and is not meant to be taken seriously.

This isn’t all easy laughs though. There are also very real problems in the mix that many young people face and the ever present dilemma of which country you like the best, missing mums cooking, the fly screen doors, Cheezels, Cherry Ripes and Arnotts BBQ Shapes. How long do you stay in London, dosing with your mates? How long do you look for a job before giving up? How long can you handle minimum wage, queues, the tube, pollution, never-ending rain, ever-changing flat mates, stodgy food and cod with your fish and chips instead of snapper? These are, or have been, real concerns for the audience on the night and many of the plays comments about missing mum, your dog, the “real” beach and choking up after a phone call home pulled the heart string of the audience sitting behind me. I often heard “Aww…I miss my Mum too…”, “I miss the surf…”, “I miss real beer”…from many a homesick Aussie.

While the story of poor or unemployed young Australians sharing a flat in London is not a new story, The Vegemite Tales makes sure it is not boring, with unexpected and hilarious twists, turns and growth of characters. Although this is no Stanislavskian feat by any means, The Vegemite Tales feels real. We all know – whether we are in London or not – what it feels like to go far away from home just to say that you have no idea where you are in life, and no idea where to go next. The beer, sex, low income job and homesickness is all part of the path of life.

Particularly well done is a scene where Sam (the father figure of the house) in his Aussie flag undies meets Portia– a very posh Brit salsa dancer – in her union jack dress and they throw insults off each other about our countries. The question Portia poses at the end of this exchange: “If Australia is so good, what are you all doing here?” really put a lid on the audience laughs.

Yes this is stereotyped, yes it is daggy and yes it is very obvious who the target audience is but it’s a great night out and an opportunity to get homesick, want mums cooking and laugh at yourself. Or be laughed at.

It is not often this reviewer has such a good time at the theatre that she can’t find anything to write during the night. I chose The Vegemite Tales over my notepad. This play is the New Australian Bible. Thongs, not Flip-Flops, Vegemite, not Marmite. Chips, not Crisps, ‘Par-sta’ not Pasta, ‘Yo-gurt’ not “Yoggurt’ and sure; we are your dirty old convicts and we own it!…Australian travelers unite, crack open a beer and say together with the fatherly Sam, clumsy Eddie, virginal Maddie and that snooty Melbournian Jane: “Up yer bum!”. This isn’t a play. It’s a cultural microcosm.

Itchy Feet Theatre presents
The Vegemite Tales
by Melanie Tait

Directed by Bill Buckhurst

Cast Blair Mcdonough, Jonathon Dutton, Jessica Gerger, Andy Leonard, Andrew Robb, Anna Skellern and Josephine Taylor
Venue: The Venue, Leicester Square | 5 Leicester Place, London
Dates: Thursday 26 July – Saturday 27 October 2007
Times: Monday - Saturday at 8.00pm | Saturday Matinees at 3.00pm 
Tickets:  £25, Matinees £15, Mondays £20, Concessions £19 (bkg fee may apply)
Bookings: 0870 899 3335 or online

Related Articles

080808 UpStage Festival 080808 UpStage Festival
It begins with a welcome to what is promised to be an almost non-stop flight, a night winging our way from port to port, timezone to timezone, seeing and hearing stories from around the world....
Bed | One Year Lease Bed | One Year Lease
As if with a microscope, the play poses a question plainly and with no vindication, what’s the worst thing you’ve done? Photos - Brian Michael Thomas Art writer Myer Schapiro...

Most read reviews

A Midsummer Night’s Dream | 2021 Adelaide Festival

The bewildering confusion between dream and reality begins before one takes one’s seat in the theatre. You have to negotiate a building site and enter the Adelaide Festival Theatre by a side entrance (how like slipping into dream that is!), and put on a mask, so that it seems that the audience is itself on stage.

Songs of Love and Death | Jane Sheldon and Alex Raineri

At this moment in our cultural history, as Australia emerges gradually from the restrictions imposed because of Covid 19, each live concert is a particularly reviving and refreshing experience.

A German Life | 2021 Adelaide Festival

The cast of one is Robyn Nevin, and it was no surprise that her performance was riveting.

Diana Doherty and Streeton Trio | 2021 Adelaide Festival

The revelation of this concert to me was that, yes, musicians, like audiences, have been starved of live performance opportunities for the last year, but that has given musicians plenty of time to practice, time that isn't always there during normal concert life for successful groups such as The Streeton Trio.

The Pulse | Gravity & Other Myths

What a Pulse the acrobats exhibited! What unanimity, what complicity in their formation and deformation of their complex body structures!

Most read news

Survey finds that people are considering leaving the Victorian music industry

A new study examining the impact of the Corona virus pandemic on the Victorian music sector found that 58% of respondents are considering leaving the industry.