The Great Australian Play fails to live up to its name at the Old Fitz


THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN GAME ★★½
Old Fitz Theatre, September 18 (until October 8)

You can tell Kim Ho had fun writing this. At one point, the playwright appears on a screen, urging the script characters to stay away from the story they’re trying to write.

It would be easy to say they should have heeded that advice, but there’s the slightest hint of Luigi Pirandello’s charm at work, even if it’s not enough to save the coin.

Five writers, working for a new streaming service, ponder how to tell the story of Lasseter: Lucinda Howes in The Great Australian Play.Credit:Phil Erbacher

Obsessed with mythology, the play centers on Harold Lasseter, who is said to have discovered a large deposit of gold near Alice Springs over a century ago. It begins with Lasseter, played by Kurt Pimblett, delivering a long (and compelling) monologue, before Ho moves into modern times: five writers, working for a new streaming service, ponder in vain how to tell the story. Lasseter’s story, with a pressing deadline. to them like a black train in a darker night.

So far, we’re sticking with it, even if the pamphlet of inept, fallow writing sessions lack much of the humor on offer. In act two, however, all bets on the continuation of a story are off. It becomes a dreamlike, satirical melodrama about Lasseter’s family awaiting the return of the gold digger, with the actors still occasionally expressing thoughts about their script characters as if the latter had gone mad in their desperation to write the series.

Sequences are mysteriously repeated and characters comment on being trapped in the room or ask each other to stop talking in riddles. Meanwhile, the production becomes more dreamlike, with reverb-treated vocals, heroically over-the-top music, and other oddities, as if someone is dropping LSD before launching into the second half.

Shari Sebbens appears as a surprise guest on a Zoom call with onstage writers, (left to right) May Tran, Rachel Seeto and Kurt Pimblett.

Shari Sebbens appears as a surprise guest on a Zoom call with onstage writers, (left to right) May Tran, Rachel Seeto and Kurt Pimblett. Credit:Phil Erbache

Personally, I rather like being lost, whether in real life or in weird comedy-dramas. But as clever, well-written, and fun as it is at times, it jumps from idea to idea never landing properly, so you can’t immerse yourself in it. You only connect to it intermittently, and the room certainly never sinks into you or envelops you in its tentacles.

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Adventurer Saro Lusty-Cavallari made it for Red Line Productions. Actors Lucinda Howes, Rachel Seeto, Idam Sondhi, May Tran and Pimblett play it with total commitment, even if they sometimes had to wonder what they had gotten themselves into. Now, like their characters, they are trapped in the season play.

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