Australia Day

By Jonathan Biggins. New Theatre. November 14 – December 16, 2017

Photo : Chris Lundie




In the imaginary town of Coriole, a committee of six has the task of organising the annual Australia Day Celebrations. They are character types one might find among the members of any organisation, country or city – an aspiring politician, a green feminist, a redneck denialist, a token ‘new’ Australian. To put them together on the Australia Day Committee of a small country town provides the basis of comic satire, for which playwright Jonathan Biggins is well known.

Photo : Chris Lundie

It it also means that they could appear as stereotypes. Finding their third dimension depends on the vision and passion of the director. Lousie Fischer, in her director’s notes writes: “They (the characters) are funny, flawed, feisty and sometimes not very nice. But they are human, they have hearts and intentions that, whilst maybe misguided, are meant well … I wanted to find truths rather than caricatures.”

Thus Fischer uses the first scenes to try to make the characters believable as well as recognisable. Sure, the wit of Biggins’ dialogue and banter makes each character ‘type’ very clear right from the beginning, but Fischer and her cast aim to find their strengths as well as their vulnerabilities. This makes them a little more convincing whilst still sustaining the humour that arises from the coming together of their very different outlooks on the contemporary world.

Peter Eyers plays Brian Harrigan, chair of the committee. Owner of the local hardware shop, he is also the mayor and is seeking pre-selection for the next election. Eyers finds humour in the arrogance and pomposity of this character as he tries to curry favour and support, especially that of fellow councilor Robert Wilson, who is the secretary of the committee.

Martin Portus establishes Wilson as a good manager, who tries to keep the calm and see everyone’s point of view. As such he listens, watches and interferes when things get heated in