12 Feb

About twenty minutes into this production I began to cry. They weren’t tears of laughter, though the play is very funny. I wept at the story of injustice.

The play tells the story of Theenie and Axis. They face a society that can hardly acknowledge, let alone accept, their homosexuality. The focus is the custody battle for Theenie’s child, Alabaster.


Alison Lyssa’s play was first presented thirty years ago. It’s witty, poetic and rich with allusion. Like some of Dario Fo’s work, it uses farce to explore serious issues, with an emotional impact that’s unexpected, and all the more powerful for that.

Sarah Vickery’s production is set in an almost cartoon-like early 80’s Sydney (except it’s painfully recognizable; I was there.) The production begins with video footage of some of the casually sexist ads of the time. We like to think we’ve moved on.

Despite some opening night hiccups (it being the first night in front of an audience) the cast do well. John Michael Burdon’s presentation of a range of patriarchal figures is highly amusing, but the pick is his all-too-familiar Kurt, Theenie’s bullying brother. Faran Martin gives a beautifully poignant portrayal of his wife; meek, dutiful and utterly lost.

Ali Aitken and Leo Domingan are Theenie’s parents. Their larger-than-Life presentations of smaller-than-Life lives should be (for all of us who live in our lounge rooms) cause for self examination.

Karoline O’Sullivan plays Theenie and Emma Louise her lover Axis, and they’re the emotional centre of the work. O’Sullivan gives a perfectly pitched journey. Louise’s anger tempered by affection is very watchable, and suggestive of a battle we must all face.

In Theenie’s battle, she must also face the law.

I’m fond of misquoting Shelley: “Dramatists are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Being a theatre practitioner myself, I guess I like to do this because it’s all very romantic. And completely self serving. There are REAL legislators, and we elect them, and we must keep them accountable. We MUST make our legal system a just one.

The joy of this play is its wonderfully radical sense that we can shape things. If the play has dated, it’s only because some of us have given up on this ideal. Or, from complacency and privilege, never held it in the first place.

Funny and deeply moving, this is exhilarating theatre. It doesn’t merely say ‘this is what the world is’; it asks ‘what do we want the world to be?’

Veronica Kaye


Pinball by Alison Lyssa

at TAP Gallery until 28 Feb

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