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BWW Review: BORDERTOWN at Holden Street Theatres

BWW Review: BORDERTOWN at Holden Street Theatres Reviewed by Ewart Shaw, Wednesday 3rd April 2019.

The fascination with the dealings and the doings of the mighty once infused great histories. Now the popular taste for gossip about film stars and politicians is fuelled by the demands for new excitements, not new ideas.

This is one of the principal themes of Bordertown, the latest from local playwright Matt Hawkins and the South Australian Playwrights Theatre. Unlike other Adelaide groups who might put Writer and Theatre together, this company proved with its inaugural presentation Frank Forbes and the Yahoo Boy, at the Bakehouse, that it knew how to use the devices of theatre to create a dramatic experience.

There are lots of laughs and some deeper issues in a play which moves briskly and is delivered with flair by the cast.

At one point, actors' agent Randy Jensen, played by playwright and director Matt Hawkins, describes the action as very funny and a little bit sad. One of the characters has been imprisoned and tethered to a chair in a hairdressers salon in Bordertown, and is being menaced with a tyre iron to force him to sign a confession. In a darker play, this could be a confronting image, but Hawkins' play is a farce and farce skates close to tragedy.

I don't want to give away too much of the plot, as it unfolds neatly in Holden Street. Patricia Barnes, played stylishly by Katie O'Reilly, is famous in her own town as the creator of Bob Hawke's particular 'Silver Bodgie' look, though that's a story which unravels as the action progresses.

Through the assistance of an old friend, who used to be the local physiotherapist, and prostitute, she sends her daughter Felicity, played by Kim Fox, to Hollywood. Felicity, now known as Flick, meets and hooks up with a B grade Latino, Emilio Sanchez, given a very convincing and energetic performance by Chris Asimos. Her fortnight of notoriety turns sour. Her return home is the point where the play topples into a surreal place.

Brendan Cooney, most of whose facial expressions are concealed behind an impressive beard is Dennis the local cab driver, whose role in driving the plot along involves him being at International Arrivals at Tullamarine just in time to intercept Sanchez who assumes that Bordertown is Melbourne suburb.

The play reminded me of Jack Hibberd's classic rural comedy Dimboola and, indeed, that town actually gets mentioned. Conscious or subconscious, it's a reminder that city folk often overlook the lives of our regional areas, though it's unfair to treat our country cousins as figures of fun.

Patricia Barnes' salon could be in any of our suburbs, but Bordertown has Bob Hawke, a man of genuine fame and significance. He makes an appearance, rather like the classical deus ex machina, to reveal a great truth and, indeed, this latest work from Matt Hawkins has an Aristophanic echo, and just a thought to more significant country matters.

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