Friday, 9 May 2003

The War Against Short Trousers, May 9, 2003

 The War Against Short Trousers  by Lisa Dethridge  
Where and When: Chapel off Chapel, May 9 to June 1, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Playwright, Lisa Dethridge, worked as an analyst for NASA  and the United Nations.  In a response to working on such weighty analysis she wrote this political satire about the world order.

The War Against Short Trousers, directed by Kaarin Fairfax,  parodies corporate power, western governments and their corrupt leaders. Coming in for particularly virulent criticism is George Bush and the USA. Close behind come England, Australia and the Middle East.

Despite its concerns with world issues, the play is not a drama. It is a broad comedy with cartoon-like characters and a superficial commentary on issues of globalisation, invasion, alliances and covert operations. The style is reminiscent of the 1960s Agit Prop  (Agitational Propaganda) political theatre in England. Its message is blunt and its form is intended to communicate to the broader community without any depth.

The story reflects the Middle East war and America's role as Big Brother and Australia's as Little Brother. A major world power resembling USA, is led by The Chairman  (Tom Stringer) who is a dead ringer in behaviour for George Bush. The Chairman appears to represent Her Royal Majesty, The Queen  (Chris Bunworth) but is in fact using her in his plot to control the world.

In an outlying island state called, rather too obviously, Kickembutt,  a bumbling big baby of a leader bears a striking resemblance to John Howard. The action is rapid, deals are made, lovers lost, wars started during an eighty minutes romp. The script is thin and old-fashioned in style with many predictable, even adolescent jokes peppered with some clever satire.

There are some strong performances particularly from David Lennie  as the John Howard look-alike, Murray McMurray. His impersonation and timing are impeccable. Kat Stewart  as his ethical daughter, Kelly  is lively and makes the most of the style. Boc  and Choi  (Tarn Vu, Penelope Bartlau) provide some entertaining moments as a duo of islanders.

The show is light, warmly received and a bit of fun. The staging is rough and the cast too big for comfort but it takes the mickey out of our world leaders. What more can we ask?

By Kate Herbert

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