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  Issue No 27 Official Organ of LaborNet 20 August 1999  





Stage Left! - Workers Theatre Hits the Mark

By Jeanti St Clair

'Rare' is the word on the Melbourne Workers Theatre production, 'Who's Afraid of the Working Class?' currently touring the eastern states of Australia.


'Shows like these only come around once every 10 years' - the audiences are passionate about Who's Afraid of the Working Class?.

Who's Afraid Of The Working Class? is a compassionate, harrowing, hilarious and mysterious play about life on the margins of society penned by some of Australia's best writers of the stage. It presents a search for the working class at the end of the millennium, a time when the traditional concept of the working class is being replaced by a workless underclass.

A family is split apart by poverty. Two children yearn for some notion of family against impossible odds. A woman finds solace in an encounter with a stranger. A Koori man struggles against his own self-loathing. A Greek woman laments the loss of her son. A young man rails against the failure of his parent's ideals. Two outrageous working class girls shoplift their way across the city and boldly declare "We ain't got nothing."

Each occupies a human landscape torn apart by years of economic rationalism; all are remarkable, flawed, complex souls in real, challenging situations. The result is hard-hitting, left-wing, political theatre that doesn't preach but entertains and enthrals. Rare, indeed.

Commissioned in 1997 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Melbourne Workers Theatre, Who's Afraid Of The Working Class? brings together the work of controversial novelist, Christos Tsiolkas (Loaded/The Jesus Man) with award-winning dramatists, Patricia Cornelius (Jack's Daughters), Andrew Bovell (Speaking in Tongues/After Dinner), Melissa Reeves (Road Movie) and a haunting score by Irine Vela (Little City).

Since its premiere season in Melbourne last year, the play has received award upon award -including the Gold AWGIE Award from the Australian Writers Guild, an award it shares with the play Cloudstreet.

Each playwright has constructed a series of stories and characters which director Julian Meyrick skilfully interweaves into Who's Afraid of the Working Class?. The result is a gripping, emotionally powerful and dynamic form of theatre, reminiscent of Robert Altman's Short Cuts. Storylines cut into each other and Irine Vela's score, Requiem for the Working Class, is performed live on stage - a melancholy double bass and cello.

Powerful political theatre is rare today with only a handful of companies taking up the challenge. Melbourne Workers Theatre has gone from strength to strength over the past 12 years, surviving in a rough terrain of arts funding threats when other small companies have been cast aside.

As Patricia Cornelius, the author of Money (one of the four plays that make up the whole) said in a recent interview with The Age, that "[t]he most cynical view would be to say that you can't trash them all, so you keep the [company] that's overtly political so that you appear to be maintaining an even perspective in the arts."

Who's Afraid Of The Working Class? has just performed a hugely successful return season at the Trades Hall in Melbourne and received a high level of support from local unionists who came in droves to see the play. Patricia Cornelius explains, "people are so greedy for political content that hits hard." On stage at night that week, the stories of retrenched workers, the under-employed and their families played themselves out to packed houses.

Outside the doors of Trades Hall on Thursday 12th August tens of thousands of workers marched against the Federal Government's changes to workplace relations - a reminder that the issues raised in this Melbourne Workers Theatre show are real, too real indeed.

Who's Afraid of the Working Class?

Belvoir Street Theatre, August 25 - September 5

Cut-Price Preview August 24 ,Tues - Sat 8pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 5pm

BOOKINGS 9699 3444

Discounted tickets available to union card holders throughout the season.

Full $27/ Conc $19; Union Members, Under 26, Groups 10+ $ 22; Preview all tickets $18


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*   Issue 27 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Stepping Up To The Plate
ACTU secretary-in-waiting Greg Combet talks about his report on international trade union trends and the need to adapt for the future.
*  Work/Time/Life: The Good Type of Wharf Security
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has locked in better job security for casuals as part of its collective agreement with P&O Ports.
*  International: Venezuela Warned By Global Labour Group
Venezuela's new Constituent Assembly has drafted a decree providing for the dissolution of the country's national trade union organisation, the CTV.
*  Legal: Politically Motivated Case Against Unionist Fails
A politically motivated extortion case against Eric Wicker, a long-time trade unionist on the Port Kembla waterfront has failed.
*  Republic: Direct Election Republicans who say YES � and MORE!
Despairing at the sight of Ted Mack and Phil Cleary fronting for Kerry Jones and the Australians for A Constitutional Monarchy? Appalled at the disastrous strategy and paralysis of the Australian Republican Movement? A significant group of Republicans has an answer for you!
*  Unions: Technology for the Times
New technology offers exciting opportunities which help union growth, according to this extract from Unions@Work.
*  History: Australian Unions and Industrial Action 1788-1900
A project is under way to compile a comprehensive record of unions, informal worker organisation and strikes from the period of European settlement to 1900 using a specially designed computer database.
*  Review: Stage Left! - Workers Theatre Hits the Mark
'Rare' is the word on the Melbourne Workers Theatre production, 'Who's Afraid of the Working Class?' currently touring the eastern states of Australia.
*  Satire: Australia's Most Earnest
Strewth magazine scours the cultural landscape for its inaugural Earnest Bastard of the Year Award.

»  Combet�s Call - Double Effort Needed Now
»  Rally or Surf Party? It�s the Workers� Call
»  Vizard Agenda Analysed
»  Truckies Face Another Oakdale
»  Former Union Leader to Investigate SOCOG Uniforms
»  Second Steggles Mum Wins Job Back
»  Strip Leads to Fair Wear Win
»  Rail Security: Scully Cuts Staff as Assaults Rise
»  Civil Libertarian Support Sought Against "Big Brother"
»  Dita Sari takes Sydney by Storm.

»  Guest Report
»  Sport
»  Trades Hall
»  Piers Watch

Letters to the editor
»  Thanks for Einstein
»  A Non-Unionist's Sympathy
»  A Mexican on Piers
»  Group Homes Claims Disputed
»  Rallying Cries
»  Security Overload

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