Jonathon Biggins has written and directed a very funny fictional play about an organising Committee set up for the upcoming Australia Day celebrations in the made-up beachside town of Coriole in rural Australia.
The Committee sees itself as a very significant organisation and takes its responsibilities for organising choirs, dance groups, the march, the citizenship ceremony and the visiting dignitary for Australia Day with the utmost earnestness.
Also of concern for the members is the Mayor’s push for pre-selection at the next election, and the presence of a newly arrived Green’s representative on Council who has some new fangled big city ideas about broadening the appeal of the celebrations to embrace multiculturalism and voluminous minority groups.
Satire, farce, conflict, corruption and great characters are some of the enticing ingredients of Biggins’ exploration of this side of contemporary society.
The current production at Glen Street is a good one with good performances all round.
Sharon Davis gives an excellent portrayal of the Green’s representative, Helen McInnes.
McInnes’ main adversary is the straight talking, no nonsense unreconstructed redneck Wally Stewart, brilliantly played by Dennis Coard, who delivers some of the shows’ most provocative and politically incorrect lines which are either confronted by Helen or mollified by the mayor Brian Harrigan, played by Geoff Kelso.
The school representative on the committee is the year six teacher Chester Lee, a self-described ABV (Australian Born Vietnamese). The more conservative members of the committee are thrown by his very distinctive Asian features. Biggins makes some great comedy out of it. The flamboyant, charismatic Kenneth Moraleda is very good in this role.
Brandon Burke as the Assistant Mayor and Robyn Arthur as Country Women’s Association representative Marie Bucknell round out the cast. The scene where Robyn Arthur comes out in full costume on the dance floor is a comic stand-out.
An impressive aspect of Biggins writing is the way he makes us look at how our country still tries to retain many of its old/classic aspects such as corner shops, sausages and white bread whilst facing the challenges of modern day, fast paced multi-cultural life.
There is also plenty of subtlety at play with the complexity of his characters. Helen appears to be good natured and principled but is willing to use less than ideal means to achieve her goals.
Marie appears simple and traditional but shows some alternative characteristics.
Chester is from a different racial ancestry than the other committee but has a racist side to his character.
This is a funny play and takes an interesting look at what it means to be Australian in today’s complex society.
Highly recommended, AUSTRALIA DAY is playing at The Glen St Theatre, Belrose until 21st February.