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You know when you're flicking through TV channels and you come across a documentary on some ordinary person doing some extraordinary thing? Some thing you have never considered doing but it's the sort of thing you wish you thought about doing, so you pause and watch a little, and then you watch the lot, and by the end of it, you're crying into your glass of wine and realising there's nothing ordinary at all about someone who does extraordinary things?

You know that feeling? That instant recognition of someone doing something good, and how it makes you want to do better, too? That's how it felt watching Jessica Hackett's JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND SMILES (complete with crying into wine). The Melbourne Fringe show drops us into Hackett's 35-day trek from Melbourne to Canberra, a walk she undertook to collect signatures for her Welcome Petition. The petition, signed by more than 17,000 people, represented the young school teacher's hope that asylum seekers and refugees might be welcomed to Australia, and they might, in her own words, be treated with dignity and respect. Finally.

This is a small story about a very big issue - an issue that many feel powerless to influence. What Hackett does so enthusiastically is remind us that community is key to change. There's not a lot of exposition offered; we don't go deep into the personal motivations behind the walk, and it's assumed we understand the political ones. What Hackett does instead is show, using video footage, voice-overs, a little music, and sweetly silly reenactments, that Australians are welcoming people, both to her, and to the idea that we can do better as a nation when it comes to refugees. Even when the Government says otherwise.

Staged in an intimate theatre space at the back of Belleville bar, JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND SMILES somehow benefits from that setting too, reminding us that the world and its many clanging glasses are waiting just beyond the curtain. That at the end of the day this is a real life story, and a real life issue. And that some people are willing to walk right into it, rather than look the other way.

Jessica Hackett & 5pound theatre present

Belleville, Globe Alley, Melbourne
20 - 24 September
For tickets and more information click here.

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