"Just because I'm another race, you think I'm not allowed to be racist? How racist is that?"
And so it goes in Australia Day, the new play from the Melbourne Theatre Company. This witty line is just one of many acerbic stabs at society littered throughout this challenging theatrical piece from writer Jonathan Biggins.
Wanna another shrimp, tofu or kosher product on the barbie?
Set in an Australian country town, Australia Day attempts to question the very notion of national identity through the stereotypical characters you would expect on stage. You have the right and the left represented, the old and the old-at-heart, the ethnic and the guy that just really wants to do the right thing. They all play their, um, part with aplomb, and as an audience member you will be suitably stunned as to the depth of local acting talent.
Woven perfectly inbetween the characters' determination to stage an effective, ethnically tolerant and trouble free Australia Day holiday celebration, are their individual motivations to progress themselves and their country without actually changing anything. It is something the play doesn't really ever solve; it is more a challenge to the audience to look at ways they themselves can change, if, that is, they can somewhat see themselves in the characters on stage.
Playing at the Arts Centre for the next month with a nationwide tour following, the play is likely to cause a political stir in some reviewers. But that is the very thing this reviewer will ignore. In part because policy is the most boring thing since, well, ever. But also because the very content of the government arguments spewed from the stage just seem a tad stale. This play could really have been written word for word, save relevant pop culture references, more than ten years ago. And maybe that's the point of the play. In over 2 hours of theatre, or a decade of social conscience, have we really gotten anywhere?