The 13th Month

By Cassandra-Ellis Yiannacou. Peg on a Line and Wildefang Productions. Flight Path Theatre, Marrickville, NSW. 1 – 4 May, 2024.

Reviewed : May 1, 2024*

Photo : Grant Leslie

The “13th month” in the title of this play refers to attempts to change the 12-month calendar to a 364 day year divided into 13 months of 28 days. It was first suggested in 1849 and the idea was revived early in the 20th century. Despite the support of some businessmen, statisticians and accountants, the idea was officially jettisoned in 1937.

Playwright Cassandra-Ellis Yiannacou has brought the idea into a 21st century Australian setting based in the offices of two government minister staffers, Peta (Isobel Ferguson) and Nick (Lisa Davidson), who are constantly described as public servants … which would probably offend most political staffers!

Photo : Grant Leslie

Caught up in a muddle of issues involving the inefficacy of the minister, public safety, a press conference, media releases and the political and financial value of the 13-month year Peta and Nick meet with three extremely wealthy capitalists (Anna Clark, Lotte Beckett and Ashyr Mason-Kaine) who confuse things even further with deals and counter-deals, unscrupulous admissions and unprincipled propositions.

The chaos that ensues becomes hard to follow (and far too muddled to describe). Suffice to say that, eventually – after a lot of talk and a lot of paper being thrown about – the “bad guys” win Rick over with an offer to good to refuse, and Peta is left alone with her rather battered but presiding principles.

Photo : Grant Leslie

Yiannacou herself describes her play as “a satirical absurdist piece” and whilst the satire is obvious, this production appears a little more inane than absurd. The three caricatured ‘tycoons’ appear to be playing for laughs rather than for irony, resulting in Yiannacou’s message getting lost in a hotchpotch of postering and profanity – a pity as it takes away from the more satirical performances of Ferguson and Davidson in the opening scenes.

Nevertheless director Madeleine Diggins keeps the action moving demanding energetic – sometimes frenetic – performances from her five enthusiastic actors. There is a ten person creative team and many weeks of organisation and rehearsal supporting the mounting of this production, which will run for only four days. Such is the passion and dedication of those behind the growing indie theatre movement in Sydney … and the arts in general.

First published in Stage Whispers magazine

*Opening performance