Review -The Hansard Monologues: A Matter of Public Importance

Camilla Ah Kin, David Roberts and Tony Llewellyn-Jones

With the federal election date likely to be called this weekend, The Hansard Monologues is a great refresher for those still uncertain about their vote.

The verbatim play is a fascinating recap of the 43rd Parliament of Australia, bringing the remarkable highlights and devastating lowlights of the past three years to the stage.

The Hansard Monologues is the brainchild of Peter Frey, the former editor-in-chief of the Sydney Morning Herald and is written by Katie Pollock and Paul Daley. Hours of parliamentary speeches and tit-for-tat discussions have been condensed into a satisfying piece of theatre, directed by Tim Jones.

While some speeches seem plucked from the pages of a Shakespearean tragedy, other moments play out like a political blooper reel – there’s Mary Jo Fisher’s explanation of the carbon tax using the “Time Warp” (with dance moves to boot) and Cory Bernardi’s slippery-slope argument linking gay marriage to bestiality.

On opening night at Sydney’s Seymour Centre on Tuesday, The Hansard Monologues had a shaky start, with the three actors – David Roberts, Camilla Ah Kin and Tony Llewellyn-Jones – initially lacking the familiarity and ownership over the political speeches amassed in their lofty binders. The musical and lighting clues were also clunky, preventing the opening scene from establishing a sense of intensity or drama.

The play picks up when a lectern is wheeled centre stage in a spotlight and the actors deliver speeches “from the heart”, followed by Julia Gillard and Tony Abbot’s face-off over the carbon tax. The monologues highlight the tension between policy and personality in an era where superficial sound bites dominate. It’s a rare treat to hear a political exchange without insufferable slogans like “axe the tax”.

The Hansard Monologues suggests that we will look back favourably on Julia Gillard’s leadership, aided by Ah Kin’s warm and sincere portrayal of the former prime minister. While Ah Kin nails Gillard’s ‘traffic cop’ open hand gestures, she lacks her fire in the belly and irrepressible passion during the misogyny speech.

The audience was in stitches at Tony Llewellyn-Jones’ caricature of Christopher Pyne, capturing the self-congratulatory politician in all his smug, snide, agonising glory.

The Hansard Monologues is perfect fodder for anyone with an interest in politics, media and performance, and couldn’t come at a better time than during the countdown to the federal election.

Performances: 25 July, Casula Powerhouse; 26 & 27 July, Seymour Centre. 

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