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Australia Day

24 February 2016 | 2:33 pm | Eliza Berlage

"The script is less a satire and more a snapshot of the polarising perspectives in society today."

From bleeding heart lefties, to rusted-on battlers, everyone is fair game in this social satire. The country town of Coriole becomes a hotbed of discrimination, corruption and clashing ideologies when an Australia Day organising committee get together to plan local celebrations.

From the archaic setting of an Old Scouts Hall the committee engage in tense debate about having a modernised and inclusive national day or a day that pays tribute to a patriotic past. There's Helen (Sharon Davis), a former inner-city Melbourne, politically correct Green who's moved to Coriole for a chance at nabbing a regional seat in politics; Marie (Robyn Arthur), the passionate but guileless President of the local Country Women's Association; Wally (Dennis Coard), a flannie-wearing, boot-stomping bloke who spouts the kind of opinions reserved for commercial talkback; Chester (Kenneth Moraleda), a flamboyant Australian-born Vietnamese school teacher; Brian (Geoff Kelso), an aspirational Liberal Mayor; and his Deputy Simon (Brandon Burke), an earnest, good man and loyal friend. The representation of characters borders on caricature but there's something oddly endearing about each of them.

The production moves from awkward discussions of politics overheard at family gatherings to the sort of dastardly opportunism made famous in House Of Cards (or our very own Australian politics). Comedic gems such as whether Captain Cook would tweet his arrival to Australia, dodgy sausages, a frightening lycra Numbat costume hinting at black face and plenty of allusion to a forced multiculturalism firmly situate the antics in a fictional but highly realistic time. For added authenticity the backdrop features portraits of soldiers, and the Queen herself, which play perfectly into discussions of the republic, colonial history and militarisation.

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The pace and structure separates the production into the organization of Australia Day and the big day, which allows for a strong set-up of clashing values and ensuing disaster. If you feel uncomfortable or find yourself laughing just a little too hard during the play, it's probably because the script is less a satire and more a snapshot of the polarising perspectives in society today.