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  Issue No 111 Official Organ of LaborNet 14 September 2001  

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Review

Political Theatre

By Rowan Cahill

The Naked Theatre Company is a youthful, adventurous, professional, Sydney theatre company committed to the development and production of Australian playwrights.

In 1999 the company conducted its inaugural young playwrights competition. One of the three winners was Vanessa Badham.

Her winning play, "The Wilderness of Mirrors", is a black-humoured political thriller in which a group of Burmese refugees try to come to terms with contemporary Australia.

Badham shows this process to be complex, as the characters deal simultaneously with cultural adjustments, the brutal memories of their recent past, and the constant suspicion of Australian authorities that they are some sort of enemy aliens.

The success of this short play resulted in the NTC commissioning Badham to write a full-length work. "Dole Diary" is the result.

Badham describes her new play as a "comegedy", as it is both darkly funny and deeply tragic. It is based on her own experiences of life on the dole.

"Being on the dole was the single most humiliating and degrading experience of my life", says Badham, of an angry and unhappy time.

"I'd just completed a year of full-time political organising, my tertiary studies were in tatters, a couple of people close to me died tragically, my landlord pulled the plug on my lease to facilitate his redevelopment plans, and I was unemployed.".

"Throughout this incredibly difficult period of my life I felt deluged by all the usual redneck rhetoric from the government and talk-back shock-jocks about dole bludgers, the devious unemployed, not to mention the ritual humiliations of Centrelink interviews and the rest of it".

Badham finds it difficult to objectify political and social injustices, and personally feels the turn of every economic rationalist and Right-wing screw. As she explains, she managed to stop herself "from going nuts" by treating her dole experiences as research, and recontextualising them as "Dole Diary".

The play focuses on three young unemployed women, an actor, a writer, and a musician, sharing a house in contemporary Australia. The women struggle to utilise their talents in the face of strong economic forces that deny their worth and relevance. Work on offer is either exploited casual labour, or highly paid intellectual service on behalf of global capitalism.

Badham's dramatic concern is with the struggle of these talented young people to establish their right to work in fulfilling ways such that they can develop as creative human beings, and be neither oppressed, nor join the ranks of the oppressors. In a sense, the three women symbolise a basic human yearning increasingly at odds with the free market world.

Aged 26, effervescent and nervously energetic, Vanessa Badham is an exciting talent. She is developing a genre of Left political theatre that is entertaining, intelligent, astute, and robust without being didactic or self-conscious.

To date she has written fourteen plays, most of them performed in her home city of Wollongong, where she attended university, is part of the city's Left culture, and has worked for the trade union movement.

Characteristically, a Badham play is a heady brew of razor-wit, sardonic observation, delivered in acutely rendered Australian dialogue, with humour used as a weapon. You tend to leave a performance with political lines and phrases running through your mind, having laughed a lot, simultaneously gob smacked by Badham's ability to reflect on the way things are, and angry at the reality she depicts.

Most recently her black comedy about contemporary corporate management culture, "Kitchen", had a successful season at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield (UK), where she was described as an "exciting new voice in Australian Theatre".

"Dole Diary", along with David Williamson's "The Coming of Stork', his trail blazing 1969 play, are currently showing at the Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross, until September 29. Performances are Monday, 6.30 p.m., 'pay what you can'; Tuesday - Saturday at 8p.m. (and a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday), $20/25 for the double bill. Bookings can be made through the Stables Theatre on 02 9250 7799.


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*   Issue 111 contents

In this issue
Features
*  Interview: Amidst the Debris
ACTU President Sharan Burrow surveys the wreckage from a week that rocked the world.
*
*  Politics: Consequences of Empire
The horror of the events in New York has not led to all American and international observers feeling committed to bloody revenge.
*
*  Industrial: Grounded
Ansett workers lay bare their feelings at seeing their company driven into oblivion.
*
*  International: Election Results from East Timor
Fretelin as expected has topped the poll in East Timorís first free democratic election and the violence predicted by some has not eventuated.
*
*  E-Change: 3.2 The Electronic Consumerist
In their latest instalment Peter Lewis and Michael Gadiel ask how effective has the law become in safeguarding the things that really matter to us?
*
*  Legal: Howard's Falkland War
Zoe Reynolds chronicles the bizarre tale of the Tampa and how a group of refugees bacame pawns in a bigger political game.
*
*  Compo: Round Two Begins
Nancy Searle reviews the Sheahan Report and highlights some of the areas of concern to injured workers.
*
*  Economics: Knowledge, Power, Banking
Raj Patel questions whether a new World Bank initiative is actually designed to control the way the Third World thinks.
*
*  Review: Political Theatre
The Naked Theatre Company is a youthful, adventurous, professional, Sydney theatre company committed to the development and production of Australian playwrights.
*
*  Satire: Howard US Visit "Marginally Overshadowed"
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has said his US trip was a complete success, if slightly upstaged towards the middle.
*

News
»  Howard Deserts Ansett Workers
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»  Trans Tasman Battle for Entitlements
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»  Qantas Workers Move To Protect Their Entitlements
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»  Unions Denounce Muslim Attacks
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»  Fund Established for New York Workers
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»  Australian Unionist Lost in New York
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»  US Flight Crews Support Ansett Workers
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»  Compo: Threshold Too High
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»  Della Moves on Premium Evasion
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»  Travel Site Severs Burma Links
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»  Paint Company Wants Strike Declared Illegal
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»  Casino Staff Locked Out Again
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»  Tax Staff to Strike Back
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»  Union Applauds Deet Ruling On Clothing
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»  Unions Take Message to Migrant Workers
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»  Get Ready to Wobble
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»  Activists' Notebook
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»  STOP PRESS: Howard Rolls Abbott on Entitlements
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Columns
»  The Soapbox
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»  The Locker Room
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»  Trades Hall
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»  Tool Shed
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Letters to the editor
»  Message from the AFL-CIO
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»  Online Opinion
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