White With Wire WheelsIt’s hard to believe that Jack Hibberd’s Australian classic White with Wire Wheels is 40 years old. Certainly some of the turns of phrase now sound quaint or remind us of a time and place that we know no longer exists, but the misogyny and misguided nature of the three main characters, Mal (Jono Burns), Rod (Angus Cerini) and Simon (Mike McEvoy) remains timeless.

These three a-typical Australian blokes consider themselves the best thing since sliced bread when it comes to cars and women, and through a series of encounters with their various girlfriends (all played by Sophie Kelly) we see just how harsh, callous and ignorant these men can be. This all changes when they meet the mysterious confident leveler, Helen (once again played by Sophie Kelly) who highlights their vulnerabilities, lies and potential impotence and effectively turns their world on its head. 

Susie Dee’s direction is smooth and sharp and the play moves along at rollicking pace, which is partly Jack Hibberd’s writing, but partly the clever physical choices in staging that fill the scene allowing the stage transitions to take place. All the performers are excellent, giving strong varied performances, highlighting the difference in their characters by their clear physicality, mannerisms and voice. Sophie Kelly gives a standout performance, successfully managing to create for her four female characters very different personalities bringing each one alive, through her gesture, posture and a simple change in her hairstyle.
The set design by Dayna Morrissey uses the Union Theatre well, and allows the performers to find different spaces for their characters to inhabit. The lighting design by Richard Vabre is tight and provides the actors with some real moments of poignancy, while helping to create and maintain the overall mood of the play. It’s also great to see a performance that makes use of the Union Theatre’s fly towers (the weights and pulleys that allow the stage scenery to be moved in and out) particularly when most smaller theatres are either reticent to use this kind of equipment or simply don’t have access to it. 

White with Wire Wheels is work that represents not only the beginning of the Australian New Wave but a time when we felt comfortable to explore what Australian Theatre is and could be. Now that our television screens are filled with mostly American accents it is a pleasure to once again see a work that revels in a distinctive Australian language and reflects a time in our past when the word larrikin still meant something. So for those of you, who have already seen White with Wire Wheels, go out and be reunited, and for the rest of you, go and be educated!

MU Student Union Ltd’s Union House Theatre and The University of Melbourne Present
White with Wire Wheels
by Jack Hibberd

Location: Union Theatre, ground floor, Union House, The University of Melbourne
Preview: 8pm, 25 September
Season: 8pm, 26-29 September and 4pm, 30 September
Bookings: 8344 7447 or www.union.unimelb.edu.au/tickets

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