The 1980s - Politics

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Nick Enright’s On the Wallaby paralleling personal and political life during the Depression was a popular success in 1981 and 1986, both productions directed by Frank Barnes. Its 1981 designer was John Pryce Jones; its 1986 performers included Nikki Gemmell and Jamie Jackson.

The 1984 presentation of Mona Brand’s Here Comes Kisch! marked the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Egon Erwin Kisch (1885- 1948) as an illegal immigrant. A Czech journalist and anti-fascist communist, Kisch (who had been a fellow student of Franz Kafka) was invited to Melbourne for an anti-war congress.

When the ship docked Kisch jumped onto the wharf, breaking his leg. Because of a court application he was able to get to Sydney but was rearrested and subjected to a dictation test. Fluent in many languages, he failed Scottish Gaelic and was given six months’ gaol, a sentence quashed by the High Court. His public appearances attracted big crowds, including Jean Devanny who kissed him in Sydney’s Domain. Kisch, whose legal counsel was left-wing Christian Jollie-Smith, left Australia in March 1935 after his legal costs had been reimbursed. Mona Brand’s play was reviewed as a “wonderful political romp” “fast, funny and very enjoyable” and the season was extended.

At the 1983 federal election there was a massive swing to the ALP led by Bob Hawke. In The Return of the Pragmati Bob Skyhawker encounters Lord Darth Fraser:

Darth: I have, you know, come back -- to turn you into the Right Wing of the Force.

Bob: Ah come off the grass, Darth. If you think with regard to and in respect of my own position and the position of my government I’m about to abandon me Sword of Socialist sympathy aah you’re having an intergalactic wank (and I use the term purely as an ejaculation).

They fight. Bob gets Darth to his knees.

Darth: Eh just a minute, Bob. Before you strike me down. Do the words budget responsibility – business incentive – welfare rationalisation – wage restraint – economic rationalism – mean anything to you?

The Money or the Box? by Greg Stone and 1983 final year NIDA acting students was a rock-and-roll musical review of the Menzies era and the beginnings of TV in Australia.

ASIO was an ongoing topic for satire, as in At Last! The 1984 Show:

I spy with my little tape

No breach of security shall escape

I intend to keep all nefarious Reds

Wedged firmly beneath the nation’s beds…

I spy with my little clip

On those under foreign terrorist grip

To ensure those intruders leave you alone

We’ll hide in your bedroom and tap your phone…

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