Review: Dimboola (Epicentre Theatre Company)

rsz_1506680_10151906976482061_1759131297_nVenue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Mar 13 – 22, 2014
Playwright: Jack Hibberd
Director: Darcy Green
Actors: Darcy Green, Louis Green, Ashleigh O’Brien, Phillip Ross, Alixandra Kupcik, Adam Delaunay, Anna Dooley, Julian Ramundi, Connor Luck, Annie Schofield, Kimberly Kelly, Zoe Tidemann, Letitia Sutherland, Tim Mathews, Michael Yore, Cameron Hutt

Theatre review
Jack Hibberd’s Dimboola is a play written with the metaphysical “fourth wall” completely removed. The audience’s presence is always acknowledged and whenever possible, characters are made to involve us in their story. In Epicentre Theatre’s production, even lighting design embraces the concept, with the entire theatre lit a bright white, and house lights are never turned off so that we are all conscious about being part of the onstage action.

Darcy Green’s direction pays tribute to 1970s Australia, with visual design aspects made to look very close to the 1979 film version, and actors determined to take us on a time travel expedition in which references to 2014 are strictly forbidden. What results is an experience that is unique, if a little bizarre. The humour is broad and old-fashioned. Under the guise of a country town wedding reception, the setting is relentlessly drunken and raucous. The air of wild disarray is successfully created by the uniformly strong cast, but some jokes and plot lines do get lost amidst the bedlam.

Adam Delaunay plays Angus with gleeful exaggeration, in a style that is reminiscent of villains in pantomimes. We don’t hear very much of what he has to say but his physical work is impressive and certainly attention grabbing. Anna Dooley as Florrie has some of the funniest facial expressions one can hope to encounter in the flesh. Her fight scene in particular is uproarious, and the most memorable moment in the show. Annie Schofield is hilarious as Shirl, playing up her character’s parochialism to great effect. It is a big and noisy crowd at the party, but Schofield works enough magic to stand out, with a characterisation that can be described as, well, a bloody ripper.

This work is an oddity. It is an interesting observational study of one aspect of our identity from a time past, so the audience does view it from a detached (and ironic) distance. We watch the nostalgia, but do not always find ourselves deeply immersed in it. Perhaps an update might improve the experience. Dimboola shows how we feel about ourselves when we are not at our best. The show is cheerful, forgiving and delirious, much like how we often think of each other.