Meet John Curtin. Not John Curtin, one of the greatest Australian prime ministers of all time. John Curtin, the 10 year old asthmatic schoolboy from Kalbarri, a small country town on the West Australian coastline, geographically opposite from Brisbane.
John Curtin is played by Lucas Stibbard, and is the protagonist of The Danger Age, Kate Mulvany’s creation for the opening of La Boite Theatre Company’s 2008 season. This charming play is set in 1942, and uniquely blends historical action with fictional perspective. On his 10th birthday, John Curtin receives a phone call from the President of the United States of America. Mistaking John for Prime Minister John Curtin, the President proceeds to detail a plan of defense for Australia to the schoolboy – the Brisbane Line. A line will be drawn horizontally across Australia, starting at Brisbane and heading due West. Anything south of the line will be defended. Anything north of the line, will be sacrificed to the Japanese. Kalbarri sits right on the line. And John lives on the North side of town.
John is not alone in his quest to save his home and country. Interestingly, the other characters all have their own rights to defend, as well as those of their homes. His best friend, Albert (played by Rhonda Purcell) is an Aboriginal girl who is uneducated, under-privilidged and constantly facing the threat of being taken away to a ‘Christian girls school’. John’s single mother Maisie (Caroline Kennison) and her special friend Dr Matsudaira (Lap Phan) deal with the prejudices of sex and racism on a daily basis. These characters add multiple layers of issues to the play, while John’s younger half-sister Glenys (Laurel Collins), and her sock-puppet alter ego Trevor, provide much of the comic relief.
The Danger Age is a well-structured play with many delightful moments. While the first act was quaint, comical and reasonably light, the second half delved into the consequences and the issues of the play, while still retaining its humorous form. Its examination of hysteria and its persuasion in society is exemplified in many ways, particularly the war itself and its resulting effects of racism. Yet this is not an ‘issue-based’ play. The Danger Age touches on issues, but does so in a way that charms and moves its audience towards an idea, rather than alienating them and forcing them to confront themselves. The Danger Age primarily is a story, and it is told beautifully.
The actors sweep the audience off their feet and into the world of 1942 Australian country life. The simplicities of outback legends, naturally beautiful landscapes and technological revolutions such as the telephone give The Danger Age its quaint edge that makes the play so likeable. Apart from Lucas Stibbard and Rhonda Purcell’s convincing performances as children, the highlights are surely Caroline Kennison’s Maisie, who proves that mothers can be just as sexy as they are good at parenting, and Laurel Collins, who truly creates Trevor the sock-puppet as a separate character. Indeed one can hardly believe the creature is attached to her arm.
With fine acting, a great story and a dramaturgically sound script, The Danger Age is a fantastic new play from Australian playwright Kate Mulvany.
La Boite Theatre Company presents
The Danger Age
by Kate Mulvany
Venue: Roundhouse Theatre | 6 - 8 Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove
Season: 28 February – 15 March
Bookings: www.laboite.com.au or 07 3007 8600
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