Menu Sian Prior

Writer, Broadcaster, Singer, MC & Teacher

Australia versus Shane Warne – who wins? [December 11]

Team A – Oscar award-winning credentials, celebrity cast, massive budget, humungous publicity campaign, and a story that draws on the dust-laden history of this wide brown land.

Team B – Green Room award-winning credentials, celebrity subject, meagre budget, modest publicity campaign (helped along by surprise endorsement from celebrity subject) and a story that draws on the dirt-laden history of this wide brown land’s best ever bowler.

For my money, Team B – ‘Shane Warne the Musical’ – wins hands down.

Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy ‘Australia’, the movie-cum-tourism campaign – to be honest, I found it completely fascinating. Baz Luhrmann has an astonishing gift for collecting images, narrative fragments and audio ear-worms from a vast range of sources and creating a kaleidoscopic cultural product which sets off little penny-bangers in your head.

For example, most of the actors he has cast have starred in at least one iconic Australian film, including Jack Thompson (Sunday Too Far Away), Bruce Spence (Stork), Max Cullen (Sunday Too Far Away), John Jarratt (Wolf Creek), David Gulpilil (Storm Boy) and Arthur Dignam, who played the dodgy priest in Fred Schepisi’s ‘The Devil’s Playground’.

Dignam once again plays a priest in Luhrmann’s ‘Australia’, and there is a scene in which this priest is taking a group of young Aboriginal boys away in a small boat to an island mission. Nullah, the boy who has been informally adopted by Nicole Kidman’s character, is standing on the back of the boat with the priest looming over him, and as you watch his face crease with fear, suddenly the whole claustrophobic, sexually-abusive world of ‘The Devil’s Playground’ explodes in your memory. That’s just one small example – but these moments of recognition, of drawing on authentic moments from other texts, happen about once every three minutes, so by the end of almost three hours in the cinema, my head was aching with an overload of imitation, mimicry, borrowing, stealing, post-modern referencing, re-using and recycling – call it what you will.

The script is pretty naff, and the central premise – that we’ll engage with the tragedy of the stolen generation if it’s a story about an Aboriginal kid who has been stolen away from a white woman – is dubious, to say the least. But it looks amazing, and if you don’t mind running the risk of laughing out loud at inappropriate moments (as I did, often), go and see it.

But you MUST NOT MISS ‘Shane Warne the Musical’!

If you enjoyed ‘Keating the Opera’, you will enjoy Eddie Perfect’s new show about the hapless Australian spin bowler who we love to love/hate. Eddie plays Shane and is definitely the star of the show, but the cast members are all excellent, including Rosemarie Harris who plays Warne’s ex-wife Simone, Sally Bourne who plays his mum, and Mike McLeish (Keating) who plays a range of supporting characters. They’re directed by Neil Armfield (who directed ‘Keating’) and even Shane himself likes the show!

The lyrics are as funny as they are clever, the story is told as sympathetically as possible (given what a balls-up Warnie seemed to make of everything other than cricket – excuse the pun) and the ever-changing musical styles in this show range from a gospel song about beer to a Bollywood dance dnumber about corruption in cricket – and everything in between. It’s on at the Atheneum Theatre until at least January 11th 2009, and it’s heading to Perth in March.