Interview: Trading in Principle
Unions: While We Were Away
Politics: Follow the Leader
Bad Boss: Safety Recidivist Fingered
Economics: Casualisation Shrouded In Myths
History: Worker Control Harco Style
Review: Other Side Of The Harbour
All The Way With FTA?
State Of Confusion
Give Them A Medal
Other Side Of The Harbour
Thomson's play looks through the eyes of those on each side of the maritime dispute: the wharfies, their union, the scabs, the business people, the conscientious observers and those in such positions of comfort the plight of the workers is all but lost on them.
Most of these positions are represented by the members of one family who have long ago gone their separate ways after being left by erstwhile father and former wharfie Sandy (Peter Carroll). Whilst in the glow of accepting a generous redundancy package the aging union stalwart had abandoned his throng in favour of a young female muse and a promise of a better life many miles away.
But Sandy is now back citing health complaints and a new found desire to reunite the clan.
The plan could work except his former missus and sharp-tongued minx Vi (Melissa Jaffer) will not have a bar of it and suspects his illness and desire for togetherness are intrinsically connected. Vi never recovered from his rejection and her bullshit detector is now too finely tuned to let any of his pleas for forgiveness touch her heart.
So Sandy decides to work with what he's got - the somewhat fading goodwill of his children who are perhaps the only people left who hold any sway with mum. But they have done a lot of growing in the years since he's left - and most of it apart. If he wants to make them do his bidding he will first need to understand them.
This is the challenge for all members of the Harbour family, who despite growing up with a strong union influence have since chosen vastly different paths for themselves. Even his oldest son (Christopher Pitman), who has carried on the union tradition, is now questioning his reasons for following his father into the labour movement. Meanwhile one of Sandy's daughters (Helen Dallimore) is sleeping with the enemy - a man from the big end of town more concerned with material gain than the well-being of a handful of maritime workers.
Harbour tells of times when a with us or against us doctrine will not do, when compromise is called for and understanding cannot depend on everyone sharing the same mono-view.
The Sydney Theatre production asks whether people need to forget to forgive and whether everyone has to agree in order for peace to reign. Often families do not have this luxury and none expresses this better than the cast of Harbour.
If there is a criticism of this production it is the feeling that it's chiefly tailored just for people who were involved in or closely following the maritime dispute while it was high news. For those whose memories have been compromised by the scourge of time or were otherwise engaged for the duration of the dispute, Harbour does not paint the industrial picture clearly.
The play features some outstanding building site sets and it artfully captures the locked-out workers' feelings of hopelessness. It also attempts to tell the scabs' and scab trainer's tales. But its lack of sympathy for these characters is perhaps what stops audience members from connecting with the motivations of those who compromised the workers' jobs and in turn one half of the story feels lost.
Yet the other half of the Harbour tale is entertaining and thoughtful enough to make it a satisfying production regardless. It boasts a brilliant script with excellent acting, particularly from Sandy's estranged wife. Vi's sardonic one liners leave no doubt about her position on anything and the family's banter makes for a hilarious tennis match of scathing witticisms shooting back, forth and centre across the stage.
On a soppy level this play suggests that if everyone could just remember they come from the same family - the human race - people might feel they had enough invested in harmony to work together and achieve it.
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