‘BANNED’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by July 11, 2018

‘BANNED’ is the thought-provoking, inaugural, full-length play of emerging Aboriginal playwright, Dr Barbara Hostalek (a veterinarian). Instead of easing off after a day’s work, Barbara still has an active interest in animal welfare, education, human rights (Deputy Chair of the Prisoners’ Review Board), arts and culture and science and technology (CSIRO), and of course writing.

This outstandingly well-crafted play for adults is being presented in association with ‘Playwriting Australia’ and ‘Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company’s Next Step Program’, which encourages the advanced development of Indigenous artists engaged in the theatre.

After a sell-out season at FRINGE WORLD 2018, this Elinor King 55-Minute production is now being presented by The Blue Room and the promising new theatre company, Mudskipper Productions. It can be seen in The Blue Room Main Theatre, in Perth’s Cultural Centre, 53 James Street, Northbridge. Thanks to Zoe Hollyoak’s promotion of this fine play, booking is essential

The scene: Today, in the Perth consultation room of a private mediation officer.

The set: Hellie Turner’s design was at first glances quite basic, with half a dozen white folding chairs, a quality rug and cream venetian blind; and then I noticed the 15 cms, 3D dictums carved in wood, painted matte black and mounted on the black walls they were barely perceptible – but well worth the work and effort.

Sound Designer was Taylor Everitt and the Stage Manager Madeleine Young.

 

          To the soft sound of a busy city street’s traffic, a middle-aged man enters the office carrying a brief case. This is soft speaking, Edinburgh born intermediary is Connor (Kingsley Judd), a mediator hired by the Footy Association on behalf of Bert, a wronged Aboriginal teenager, as a final attempt at negotiating mutual justice.

         First to arrive for the mediation process is a smartly dressed, upper-class white woman, Jane (Holly Jones), the prejudiced mother of a teenage child who had been vocally and physically abused at a footy match.

         This ugly incident took place at a football game, and resulted in Bert – a most promising sportsman – spending time in jail, as well as receiving a lifetime ban from playing footy matches. Bert’s loving, Noongar Mum, Meeka (Della Rae Morrison) is already late, and Jane is determined to leave; will the mediation go ahead?

 

The rich script is absolutely amazing. The dialogue clearly demonstrates the battle between a hateful bigot, with problems, and a loving mother who has experienced a lifetime of prejudice. In a superb performance, Holly Jones gives us an unrelenting performance of detestation, combined with tears. Her extreme body and facial language did not simply state what she was thinking, but silently ‘yelled’ it to the mother and mediator.

The ‘negotiator’ (Kingsley Judd always gives a memorable performance) showed calm and care to the situation, often to the frustration of the two parties. His Scottish accent, similar to author Alexander McCall’s, was accurate and consistent.

Even with quarter of a century of acting to her name, Della Rae was at her finest as the mother who only wanted a fair deal for her shattered son. Three magnificent (award-winning?) performances that melded into a solid intriguing and disturbing chemistry that will make all of the audience re-examine their attitudes.

This talented cast, all of whom have extensive TV and film acting, and won major awards in the past, still needed a special director to bring the whole script to a believable situation. Award-winning Hellie Turner, with talented dramaturg by Polly Low, created and guided the cast into achieving their gripping performances.

The script of this play is exceptional. With three very different characters; one a calm caring person, another a loving family woman, and then a bitter, bigoted, insecure woman. The totally believable dialogue was at times dynamite, as the pettiness and venom flowed freely.

A truly brilliant first play. Many writers with decades of writing would be proud to produce such quality.

This play sold out at Perth Fringe, and is almost sold out for this season. Catch it if you can.