Venue: Old Fitzroy Theatre (Woolloomooloo NSW), Sep 15 – Oct 8, 2022
Writer: Kim Ho
Director: Saro Lusty-Cavallari
Cast: Lucinda Howes, Kurt Pimblett, Rachel Seeto, Idam Sondhi, Mây Trần
Images by Phil Erbacher
A group of young Australians are in a room, trying to write a television series, but obstacles abound preventing them from getting anywhere meaningful with their project. Kim Ho’s The Great Australian Play is a very contemporary look, at our culture and zeitgeist, a work that serves perhaps as documentation of how we are changing as a nation. The bad news, is that we consistently fail to find consensus, in so much of what we do; good news however, is that the weakening of a previous hegemony, means that authority is being disseminated.
Unable to agree on anything, the writers struggle to meet their deadline. The Great Australian Play is not a case of writer’s block, but a rendering of the commercial, social and artistic factors, that many of today’s creatives feel they are beholden to. Director Saro Lusty-Cavallari uses this conceit, to create a show about conflict and the elusiveness of resolution. It is a satire about the creative process, as it stands this point in time, as we try to make sense of the mechanics of power on this colonised land, and try to effect benevolent changes to it.
The Great Australian Play has a tendency to feel overly complicated, especially when it ventures into surreal and symbolic territory. Its concepts are strong, but execution never quite reaches its aesthetic ideals. Set and costumes by Kate Beere, are able to convey the mundanity of the writers’ room experience, but lacks the versatility and idiosyncrasy required, to aid in the play’s many amorphous and quirky tendencies. Kate Baldwin’s lights respond better to that need for a more theatrical approach, although they can feel at times to be abruptly calibrated. More successful is Lusty-Cavallari’s own sound design, that proves adept at helping the audience navigate between complex spatial configurations, physical and otherwise.
Demonstrating great commitment to the cause, is a cast of six compelling actors. Lucinda Howes, Kurt Pimblett, Rachel Seeto, Idam Sondhi and Mây Trần, form a well-rehearsed group, persuasive with all they intend to say.
What we can learn from the old guard, is not only that it is time for them to relinquish power to more appropriate people, but also that the way in which their systems have been organised, is in desperate need of transformation. There is not much point, in replacing one head with another, if the entire apparatus refuses to budge. Characters in The Great Australian Play are seen to be falling apart, because they are still operating under old structures. It is accurate to portray them as failures, for none of us is quite sure, as to where our destination should be, if indeed, one could exist.