Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Barassi – The Stage Show, Sept 26, 2012 ***

By Tee O'Neill, Jager Productions
Athenaeum Theatre, Sept 25 to 30, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sept 26, 2012
Stars: ***
 Review published in Herald Sun on Fri. Sept 28. KH

RON BARASSI IS A GOLDEN FOOTY ICON IN MELBOURNE, and Barassi – The Stage Show is a tribute show that tracks his life in VFL and AFL football as both a young, feisty player and an even tougher, volatile coach.

Director, Terence O’Connell, and playwright, Tee O’Neill, create a cheerful piece of identification theatre that will appeal to Aussie Rules footy fanatics who usually avoid theatre but who enjoy a laugh and some reminiscing about the old VFL and its transformation into a national league.

It would be churlish to focus entirely on the theatrical limitations of the script, because this is genuinely funny, good-humoured, playful production with a clever, committed cast, including former AFL footballer, Russell Robertson.

The play is book-ended with glimpses of Barassi’s dad, Ron Sr., who we see in the early 1940s as a Melbourne Football Club champion, as a young soldier who tragically dies in Libya and, in the touching final scene, at his gravesite in Tobruk when Ron Jr. visits in 1984.

Footy supporters of all AFL clubs will not be disappointed with this chronological, biographical storytelling that explores Barassi’s successes and failures in football from the ‘40s to the ‘80s.
 Die-hard fans will identify with the highs of winning Grand Finals, the lows of losing by a point, cameo depictions of footy greats, including Alex Jesaulenko and his unforgettable mark.

Two capable actors play Barassi, with nuggetty, muscular Chris Asimos as the unpredictable, young footballer, and Steve Bastoni portraying with vigour, the laser-beam focus, passion and obsession of coach Barassi.

Matthew Parkinson captures the lanky, laconic persona of Melbourne coach, Norm Smith, Barassi’s surrogate father, Jane Clifton’s narrator, a terminally disgruntled Collingwood supporter, provides footy humour and scene links, while Amanda LaBonte plays the women in Barassi’s life.

O’Connell, without introducing a Sherrin football, cunningly incorporates footy with stylised movement, projections of headlines and a chorus of footy fans and footballers (Robertson, Richard Sutherland, Glenn Maynard, Bartholomew Walsh).

O’Neill’s dialogue is sometimes cheesy and uncomfortably expository as it tries to jam too much factual information into scenes.

A biography rarely has a clear dramatic arc so the story bumps up and down, the structure of the play is clumsy, covering too much ground, too many years and many unimportant details.

The script focusing on a shorter period might provide further insight into Barassi as a man, his career, his iconic status and his past.

However, the show hurls footy into the theatre for those who are usually barracking from the Southern Stand

By Kate Herbert

 Steve Bastoni
Chris Asimos
Jane Clifton
Russell Robertson
Mathtew Parkinson
Amanda LaBonte
Richard Sutherland
Glen Maynard
Sean McGrath

Creative Team
Director: Terence O'Connell
Writer: Tee O'Neill
Scenic Designer: Nathan Weyers
Costume Designer: Kim Bishop
Choreographer: Alana Scanlan
Lighting Designer:  Jason Bovaird
Sound Design: Paul Norton
Visual Design: Georgie Pinn


  1. I truly like to reading your post. Thank you so much for taking the time to share such a nice information.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Andi. You may like to read about my two recent favourites: An Enemy of the People and No Child, both in the Melbourne Festival. K