Australia Day by Jonathan Biggins

Reviewed by Georgia Cassimatis

As soon as this performance started I felt at home, and both laughed….and cringed. Why? I have known and experienced on some level all of these ‘six volunteers from Council’, who come together in the small town of Australia, Cariole, to organise Australia Day. Naturally, as is very Australian, the event also takes place in an unimpressive, quintessentially Australian Scout Hall, home to an Australian flag on the wall, a portrait of the Queen, trestle tables, ‘wine in mugs’, an old answering machine phone system, and my favourite: the iron heaters everyone almost stands on top of to keep warm, not to mention the scones, jam and cream for the meeting break.

There’s Robert (Martin Portus), the ‘seemingly’ diplomatic Deputy Mayor, who keeps the logistics flowing, Brian (Peter Eyers) the small business owner slash Mayor who typifies the ambitious, ‘polished’ politician, Maree (Alice Livingstone), a retiree and member of the CWA (country Womens Association), and Wally (Les Asmussen), a blue collar worker suspicious of any form of progression, who fabulously and no-holds-barred dramatically butts heads with member of the Greens, the slightly arrogant Helen (Amelia Robertson-Cunninghame). To add to this eclectic mix is the nonchalant, seen-it-all-before school teacher, there-by- default because he happened to fill in for someone, Chester Lee (Lap Nguyen).

Of course, as old school and young school Australia heatedly clash in organising the big day, all manner of political correctness erupts and while arguing the importance of sustainability, climate change and the need for social media: IT being an anathema to Cariole, insults such as ‘cold-assed bitch’ and ‘Marxist Melbourne lesbian’, and the frequent use of the word ‘fucken’, are wittily interspersed throughout.

While not giving anything away, intertwined are a couple of plot twists, where the characters are confronted about what it is that makes community, and that perhaps a politician no matter where: country town or high flyer in Canberra, will always be just that: a ‘politician’.

Written by Australian playwright Jonathan Biggins he successfully and cleverly shows the dichotomy between old world and the new and the theme of a small country town going through an identity crisis.

As for the day itself, when it does arrive, in all its sausage sizzle, choir singing, outdoor dunny desperation splendor, naturally so too arrives Murphy’s Law.

Brilliant cast. Fabulous fast-paced script. Worth seeing.

Now showing:

New Theatre, Newtown

November 14th – December 16th 2017


Photo by Chris Lundie