Actor Paul Bishop, front, in a scene from the Queensland Theatre Company's production of the play Australia Day. Supplied by Kath Rose Publicity.
Actor Paul Bishop, front, in a scene from the Queensland Theatre Company's production of the play Australia Day. Supplied by Kath Rose Publicity. Aaron Tait

QTC launches play inspired by Australia Day

HIS experiences as an Australia Day Ambassador inspired playwright Jonathan Biggins' new comedy Australia Day.

Opening on January 25 with the Queensland Theatre Company, the Aussie production is set in the fictional country town of Coriole and follows the members of the Australia Day Committee.

"(As an ambassador) you get to go out to regional communities and you help in their Australia Day celebrations, help at their citizenship ceremony and generally wave the flag for the Australia Day Council," Biggins told APN.

"I went out there thinking it's a bit jingoistic and flag waiving, but when I got out to the regional areas and saw the enthusiasm and pride they took in the day it made me rethink."

The play follows the town's six quirky community leaders, who "couldn't raffle a chook in a pub" and have very different ideas of how the day should be celebrated.

"I thought it would be nice to have a play about a committee organising Australia Day festivities in a part of Australia that's changing," he said.

"It's this little coastal town where demographics are changing, the population is shifting, attitudes are changing. It's an inherently conservative town coming to grips with those changes.

Then what's on top of that is the political machinations with the sort of people who want to be on a committee to organise Australia Day."

The committee members squabbling over things like which type of bread is the most appropriate for the sausage sizzle are the local mayor Brian, his deputy Robert, local builder Wally, the local CWA president, Greens councillor Helen and primary school teacher Chester.

Actor Bryan Probets in a scene from the Queensland Theatre Company's production of the play Australia Day.
Actor Bryan Probets in a scene from the Queensland Theatre Company's production of the play Australia Day. Aaron Tait

"Chester is a young Vietnamese Australian who recently moved to the area," Biggins said.

"He's been dragged on to the committee to replace the school's old representative."

The Greens councillor has recently moved to Coriole from Melbourne and wants to make her presence known in this more conservative community.

"(The setting) is not dissimilar to those areas around Byron or Bellingen where attitudes are changing," he said.

"People are going there for a sea change, so there's quite a disparity of opinions and beliefs in those electorates."

The show certainly hits close to home for actor Paul Bishop, who plays the Mayor.

When Bishop is offstage, he is a Redlands City Councillor on Brisbane's bay side.

The first act is made up of a series of scenes from the committee's meetings throughout the year.

The comedy then culminates in the second half with the less than smooth Australia Day celebrations.

"It's fairly sad to say things go pretty pear shaped," Biggins said.

"There's a heat wave, a massive storm comes in, there's bush fires nearby and the sausage sizzle goes wrong with spectacular results."

Aside from inspiring some laughs, Biggins hopes the show sparks some debate about what it means to be Australian as the country prepares to celebrate the public holiday this month.

"There's a distinction between patriotism and nationalism," he said.

"Australia Day is often hijacked with this nationalistic fervour... but there's nothing wrong with having pride in your country."

Australia Day opens at the QPAC Playhouse on January 25 and plays through February 16.


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