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BWW Review: See The Effect Of WWII On The Home Front As 15 Women Seek To Save The DINKUM ASSORTED Biscuit Factory.

Sunday 22nd November 2015, 5pm, New Theatre, Newtown

Linda Aronson paints a picture of life for the women left behind during the Second World War as they seek to save their livelihood, the factory that makes DINKUM ASSORTED Biscuits, as they wait for the men to come home. The women that kept the factories running during war band together to support their town, the factory and each other in this moving and amusing Australian story.

David Marshall-Martin has divided the stage with a stack of platforms on one side and a bank of metal worker's lockers on the right with the factory further represented by the corrugated iron panels with a saw-tooth roof as a backdrop. Whilst the set on its own could be any era, Ryan Devlin's introductory Big Band Jazz music sets the era in the 1940's which is further reinforced by Kiara Mullooly's costumes that include the simplicity of the button down dresses topped with factory smocks and ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Warden's coats and helmets.

Along with the overarching plot to save the Jameson's Biscuit Factory that makes the DINKUM ASSORTED biscuits, Aronson provides an insight into the other challenges that the women face. There are comic moments of the serious ARP Drills, led by Water Biscuit Forewoman Grace (Colleen Cook), which are met with reluctance as the women struggle to take her seriously, particularly when she insists that they all take the precautions that have been listed for children, issues that are noted as common to other ARP teams. 17 year old dancer Vi(Amanda Laing) expresses the isolation that people felt as she desperately wants to leave the fictional town of Warrabadanga to get the opportunity to perform. Also with best friend Rosie (Hannah Raven Smith), the two embody the rebellion of youth and the fascination with the American men stationed nearby. The fear of the local Priest visiting with news from the Front is palpable as the women hope that their husbands and sons will come home safe and the desperation that is seen when they don't as is the case with young mother Millie (Bodelle de Ronde). We also see the dynamic of a small town and close knit community as outsiders are shunned whether it be because they come from the city and dress differently like Joan (Sonya Kerr) or they've been known for other things in town before joining the factory like Connie (Debra Bryan).

Laing and Smith shine and bounce off each other with a wonderful comedic timing. There is great attention to detail like the iconic eyeliner to replicate backseam stockings and the little moments when Vi is distracted from work in favor of dancing. Both have a natural ease with their interactions and their delivery. They handle the ridiculous plotline of the stolen alcoholic goat well and present a delightfully energetic tap number despite Rosie supposedly being uncoordinated.

Similarly, Bryan and Kerr also present natural dialogue whilst still being true to their characters. Kerr captures the elegance of a city woman whilst still showing a vulnerability of a woman that is fighting to get back her child and harboring other secrets. Bryan presents the duality of Connie's sharp edged exterior formed as a response to the exclusion from her colleagues and the caring woman that few get to see.

It is unclear if it is Director Sahn Millington's choice or an issue with vocal support but much of the dialogue, whilst heated in its passion, sounds like yelling rather than supported volume causing a shrillness rather than authority. Apart from the 4 mentioned above, there is also stiltedness to the dialogue which may stem in part from the text and unease with movement.

This is a sweet little story of ingenuity, tenacity, courage and compassion that made up the 1940's Australian woman. It shares the Australian spirit of making do with the situation that has presented itself without self-pity but rather humor. DINKUM ASSORTED would appeal to anyone that enjoys home grown work, wants to support women in the performing arts industry and enjoys a little song and dance.

Rosie (Hanna Raven Smith) and Vi (Amanda Laing) (Photo:Bob Seary)
Joan (Sonya Kerr) and Connie (Debra Bryan) (Photo: Bob Seary)
Photo: Bob Seary
Photo: Bob Seary

DINKUM ASSORTED

New Theatre 542 King St Newtown

17 November - 19 December 2015

Photo: Bob Seary


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