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In the footsteps of Mike Pence: Five Australian politicians and the theatre they should see

The Broadway musical Hamilton has appeared in more headlines over the last week than most pieces of theatre do in a lifetime. Here’s a show with a message about equality and freedom, which is seemingly at odds with much of what is preached by Donald Trump and his Vice President Elect, Mike Pence.

But what about in Australia? Politicians aren’t seen all that regularly at the theatre, but I started thinking this week about the pieces I’ve seen recently that I wish certain local politicians could have experienced.

This piece was inspired by an interview I heard on FBI radio this weekend, with fellow Sydney theatre critic Cassie Tongue. She was asked which politician should’ve seen which piece of theatre this year, and pointed to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and the wonderful performance project Tribunalwith refugees and Indigenous Australians telling their own stories.

Here are five more to add to the list.

GEORGE CHRISTENSEN – SPRING AWAKENING

Liberal National Party MP George Christensen has been lobbying hard for the Safe Schools program to be rolled back over the last year, likening the education given to young people through the program to “grooming”.

Much of his hysteria about the program has fallen into what can be best described as Helen Lovejoy-ing, but Spring Awakening exposes the danger of keeping young adults in the dark when it comes to matters of sex, sexuality and relationships.

I wrote, in my review of the brilliant Australian Theatre for Young People production: “Teenagers, being teenagers, will seek out the information and experience they want (and they will inevitably find it in 2016), and Spring Awakening shows exactly what can happen when they don’t get the full story, or get a warped version of the truth.”

MALCOLM TURNBULL – KING CHARLES III

Before Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister, he was quite fond of a Sydney Theatre Company opening, and I imagine Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III might have been right up his alley.

Set in the days after Queen Elizabeth II’s death, it imagines a future in which Prince Charles ascends to the throne. The monarchy starts to show serious signs of strain during this period of upheaval. Seriously, I think Turnbull, a devoted Republican, would really get a kick out of this play’s big questions.

In the end, Charles goes out in a blaze of glory, holding firm to his principles and beliefs, rather than bending to the will of those around him. Perhaps it could provide some inspiration…

MICHAELIA CASH – ALL MY SONS

Michaelia Cash has been relatively quiet as the Minister for Employment. No massive industrial relations reforms have emerged during her time in the portfolio, but I’d want anybody overseeing workplace laws to know and have seen Arthur Miller’s 1947 masterpiece, All My Sons.

Few plays combine big, political ideas about class and the labour market with the human tragedy and heartbreak that emerges when things go wrong. Sydney Theatre Company’s production earlier this year engaged the mind as much as the heart, and left me literally shaking.

MALCOLM ROBERTS – THE TURQUOISE ELEPHANT

I understand that trying to convince One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts of the realities of climate change is a futile battle. Many great scientific minds have attempted to do so and engaged extensively with Roberts, but his mind is pretty well made up.

So perhaps the only hope is through something as disarming, funny and incisive as Stephen Carleton’s play The Turquoise Elephant. The play is set in the not-too-distant future in an Australia ravaged by climate change. Melbourne has gone under water, outside temperatures in Sydney regularly reach above 50 degrees, and the world is swimming with climate change refugees looking for a new home (if that doesn’t scare a One Nation senator into taking climate change seriously, I don’t know what will).

The play deals briefly with some scientific points, but its central question is: what motivates climate change denialism? Perhaps pondering that question for an evening might do Roberts some good.

(And it’s still playing at Sydney’s Griffin Theatre for a few days — anybody want to shout Roberts a ticket?)

CORY BERNARDI AND RICHARD DI NATALE – ECOSEXUAL BATHHOUSE

I doubt either conservative senator Cory Bernardi or Greens leader Richard Di Natale has spent any time in a bath house of any variety, but Ecosexual Bathhouse might be the perfect opportunity for the two to spend some time together in a safe, exploratory and sexually open space.

Created by Perth-based company Pony Express, and performed in Sydney and Melbourne this year, Ecosexual Bathhouse offers visitors the opportunity to have intimate, up-close and personal interactions with plant life.

You can stimulate pollination from an orchid using your gloved finger, and maybe even cross-pollinate. You can have phone sex with a plant while you give it a little squirt. You can engage in some light massage, stick your fingers deep into a bathtub full of soil, and even browse some erotic plant-based pornography.

Look, I’m not really sure what either Bernardi or Natale would take away from this rather unusual performance art experience, but something interesting would be bound to happen…

2 responses to “In the footsteps of Mike Pence: Five Australian politicians and the theatre they should see

  1. Can’t really explain why, but the play (actually film of the play ) I would send Malcolm Roberts to see is Rhinoceros , the one with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder.

    The sydney theater company production of All my Sons was truly superb .

    BTW what play or film would you send Mr Shorten to ?

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