The 2000s - Politics
The All Ordinaries revue marked federal election night in 2001. The 2002 cast of Stop Laughing, This is Serious! 70 Years of Revue at the New included Bartholomew Rose who played Prime Minister John Howard and for some years afterwards took that persona into the real world, including the City to Surf marathon and the Bennelong electorate. He reappeared in Australia’s Most Wanted, a trivia night fundraiser in 2005, and in Howard’s End, an election night revue in 2007.
Sydney writer Frank Hatherley’s Manly Mates exposes corruption during the period in office of NSW Premier Robin Askin. The political farce is set in 1972 in a bar of the old Manly Hotel where the Premier holds court to his Police Commissioner and other mates including a property developer councillor, an SP bookie and a Mafia salesman, as well as his sherry-drinking wife Mollie.
Alma de Groen’s The Woman in the Window centres on Russian poet Anna Ahkmatova, forbidden to write and under house arrest during the Stalin regime. Her work is memorised by women friends who for decades risk their lives to preserve her words. In a futuristic Australia, a similar oppression by corporate society has suppressed all memory of literature and the natural world. Directed by Kevin Jackson in 2005, the title character was played by Elaine Hudson.
A satire on spin doctoring in modern politics in which New Labour and the Tories are equally ruthless and cynical, Feelgood was written by Alistair Beaton who had been a speechwriter for Gordon Brown. (Beaton’s Follow My Leader was about the war in Iraq.) Set on the eve of the British Prime Minister’s speech to his party’s annual conference as anti-capitalist riots rage in the streets below, the play centres on Eddie, a New Labour press chief who will do anything to support his Party, now in government.
Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem comments on the state of 21st century England, lamenting loss of freedom, community and innocence, in its place a manufactured, corporate landscape of shopping malls and food chains, a nanny state of concrete, warning signs and closed circuit television cameras. An anarchic vision has replaced William Blake’s “green and pleasant land”. Its central character is Johnny "Rooster" Byron, a local waster and modern-day Pied Piper who lives in a caravan in the woods and surrounds himself with hangers-on whom he plies with drugs and alcohol. The action takes place on local county fair day St George's Day, a frenetic chain of events starting with Rooster being served with an eviction notice.
Rooster, a towering figure of Shakespearian proportions, was played by Nicholas Eadie. Directed by Helen Tonkin and designed by Tom Bannerman, Jerusalem was voted by Sydney critics as one of Sydney’s best shows in 2013.
The last show in 2013 marked a total break with past uncritical acceptance by NT of Stalinism. Moira Buffini’s Dying For It is a reworking of Nikolai Erdman’s 1928 play The Suicide which was banned by Stalin before it was even performed. In a totalitarian state where informing and corruption thrive, a young unemployed man contemplating suicide is exploited by others (representing the intelligentsia, the business world, the Arts, the workers, the Church) to further their own causes.
In 2016 Marat/Sade was staged with an ethnically diverse cast trapped inside a cage. Clearly referenced was the Australian government's policy of keeping asylum seekers in offshore detention.