Australia Day Recipe: Take one small town and mix together a committee made up of equal parts bigot; CWA-staunch-bastion; Greens-tree-changer new to the town; token-Asian-educator; political-punter-businessman (watch that economic growth!) Add his long-standing-friend-cum-assistant and STIR VIGOROUSLY...
Vote 1 Jonathan Biggins, writer and director of Australia Day, one of the funniest, quintessentially Australian plays I have ever had the pleasure to laugh along with, around, upside down and through. Some of the one-liners are pearlers and I was hard-pressed to write quickly enough to commit these gems to paper. Not only has Jonathan captured the essence of a regional town committee and all the parts thereof, but he has also nailed the biodiversity therein. How can one man have such insight into the human element of ‘types’ and yet our own politicians don’t seem to know who any of us are? I guess that’s what makes great comedy (tragedy and comedy walk hand-in-hand) and for someone as erudite as Mr Biggins, well, the rest is history... past, present and future!
There are no taboo subjects: Biggins deals with racism, patriarchal indulgence, disability, education (or lack thereof), bigotry (old-age and new-age) technology, food choices, indigenous culture, bullying, economic growth, old-school mentality and so much more of the current human psyche – all with a laconic smirk and a twist of the knife. Wonderful. The audience laughed, gasped, sniffled, sucked air into the back of their lungs with the political incorrectness of it all: a broad-spectrum fun-scream... Getting it out in the open (what many of us feel inside but don’t say outright) is laughably cathartic.
The cast is brilliant. Every single one of them. Succinct. Palatable and unpalatable. Annoying and lovable. You know them; you’ve worked with them; been on similar committees with them, at the school canteen or any fund-raiser or club rally. These are the threads of the fabric that make us all who we are: Jonathan Biggins has woven them together and stitched them up as a story-quilt to wrap around our cooling brains.
Set design and lighting are minimalist yet perfection: this is where it all happens seamlessly with easy changes, adding fluidity to the whole unravelling of the Australia Day celebration preparations. The white board with the list of events and how they keep changing. Expectations from every committee member and how they ‘go about their business’ dealing with each other: so many nuances and quips, fighting for their own agendas. Geoff Kelso as Brian – wow – I would certainly not vote for him (that’s how fabulously he portrayed his political character); David James as Robert, the friend and assistant, brought it home; Sharon Davis as Helen-the-Green, has so many composite parts to embrace, she gets my vote (ha ha); Dennis Coard as Wally (a powerful role), I am sure I worked with you at the timber yard; Ken Moraleda as Chester, what a role and what a role-model; Robyn Arthur as Marie from the CWA – dressed as ‘Numbat Dreaming’ I love YOU.
Mate... some of my favourite expressions and one-liners I managed to note in the dark: “Progress is when things get better...; I want things to stay the same for five minutes....; No-one’s allowed to be ordinary anymore...; It’s a sausage sizzle... (and in reply)... Not any more, it’s a legal nightmare; Don’t go all Penny Wong on us; I thought all this shit died with Kingswood Country; Weather doesn’t equal climate change”; The goal posts keep shifting.... (and in response from Wally, legend) “But the ball’s still the same!”
Friendships and stereotypes and all the ground in-between makes Australia Day a performance not to be missed and must be coming to a town near you – make sure you haul your Oz-multi-cultural-carcass along to one of the regions and see which character glues you to your view.
Two more quips, indulge me, I can’t help myself: “No one holds a grudge better than the socially aware....” and last but not least, “We’re all tribes, no matter how many Harmony Days we have!”
Jonathan Biggins, we salute you.
Christine Harris and HIT Productions present
by Jonathan Biggins
Directed by Jonathan Biggins
Venue: Lismore City Hall
Dates: 23 & Wed 24 June 2015
Tickets: $$22 – $49