Neighbourhood Watch

Well meaning neighbours can be wonderful- but when things are taken to the extreme, absolute power will corrupt. Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s 75th play is directed by Anna Crawford and set on the right side of the tracks in the English town of Bluebell Hill, just a short distance away from the nasty housing housing estate which is the cause of much angst of the residents. New residents Martin (Brian Meegan) and his sister Hilda (Fiona Press) move into the area and after mistaking a clarinet playing schoolboy for an intruder, Martin and his sister decide its up to them to form a group to protect the neighbourhood. The coppers are not interested in the residents safety so its time to form a quasi vigilante society. Enlisting the support of retired security officer Rod (Bill Young), retired classifieds editor Dorothy (Gillian Axtell) and social misfit and shed tinkerer Gareth (Jamie Oxenbould) – who delightfully just takes things a little too far, absurd rules and regulations are laid down to protect the locals. Not everyone is pleased about the extent to which such “protection” is required- do you really need stocks in the village?! The Discipline and Protection subcommittee think so! Luther (Douglas Hansell), is the most vocal and physical about his objections to the over the top regime created by the self appointed watchers. His wife Magda (Lizzie Mitchell) is not sure which way to go but plumps for safety with the group. Gareth’s wife Amy (Olivia Pigeot), the local siren, finds humour in the whole thing and sets her cap at the seemingly upright Martin. This is a dig at people with nothing better to do than scare monger in a previously well functioning neighbourhood (reflecting the worked up fear that flooded through England after the riots in 2009) – whilst simultaneously exposing the secretive goings on between the village members. A satirical comedy but which for me doesn’t get comedic enough. There are a few laughs but at times its like watching a B grade BBC comedy from the late 70’s. Not one of Sir Alan’s best. When and where: Ensemble Theatre Kirribilli till Jan 24, 2014

Coranderrk

When I saw this play last year at the Opera House, I went home afterwards, ashamed that I knew nothing of this incredible piece of indigenous history. Belvoir and ILBIJERRI theatre have combined to present this work again in Sydney and it has an even more powerful impact with an all indigenous cast. Coranderrk was an Aboriginal Station established in 1863 near Healesville in Victoria. Under the excellent management of a lay preacher John Green, the station flourished and was self sufficient. The indigenous population thrived and were treated with respect and kindness. Because of its success, various lobby groups at the time wanted a piece of the action and the valuable Coranderrk land for white settlers and urged the Board for the Protection of Aborigines to move the indigenous population on. After the dismissal of John Green, the men and women of Coranderrk fought back and after petitions and deputations, an inquiry was held in 1881 which had 69 witnesses, 22 of them Aboriginals. This play is a partial re-enactment of the inquiry presenting the personal testimonies of the sadness suffered by the men and women of Coranderrk after John Green’s dismissal and those that tried to destroy Coranderrk for their own selfish purposes. Whilst the Inquiry ultimately allowed Coranderrk to continue, Victorian politics intervened and the passing of legislation caused it to be closed in 1924. Beautifully directed by Isaac Drandic, this story was brought to being by research from writers Giordano Nanni and Andrea James. A great cast- Jack Charles, Stewart, Kate Beckett, Kelton Pell, Melodie Reynolds-Diarra. At only 1 hour this is a powerful story particularly because of the personal accounts – you cannot help feeling that had John Green been allowed to continue his work, the lives and work of Aboriginal men and women may have been far more valued and a lasting legacy would have ensued. Belvoir.