17 Aug FEATURE ‘Bounty’ | The Age
Bounty | Review
17 Aug, 2015
A dark satire about former Premier Campbell Newman and his anti-bikie laws – in which criminal gang members are forced to fight each other in pink jumpsuits – will debut in Melbourne next month.
Bounty blends recent Queensland political history with Ancient Rome to create an absurd take on radicalisation, vice and moral panic in modern Australia, according to playwright Eric Gardiner.
“It starts from something vaguely resembling reality then quickly delves into this absurd reimagining – what if Campbell made bikies into gladiators in a superjail arena and became a Roman Emperor?” he said.
“It draws on an excessive amount of research not only on Campbell and Queensland in the 80s, but ancient history.”
Gardiner said he wanted to use the larger-than-life nature of the Newman government to explore the idea that Queensland is treated as a backwards state so the rest of Australia can pretend it’s progressive.
“It was thinking about Queensland as a microcosm of the lucky country mentality, that culture of complacency that comes from an abundance of mineral wealth,” he said.
“The state and its characters were a really great vehicle for exploring the national psyche.”
Gardiner, 24, said the play contained only four characters – Campbell and Lisa Newman and their two daughters, who end up donning pink battle jumpsuits themselves.
“It isn’t At Home with Julia or The Gilles Report, it’s not impersonation or caricature, so there might be moments of laughter in the show, but there are others that are deadly serious,” he said.
“That’s because right now in Australia I think it’s more important than ever that artists take on these subjects with rigour and give audiences the smart politically-charged theatre they’re crying out for.”
But he admitted part of his inspiration was the close relationship between Campbell and Lisa Newman.
“Andrew Bolt once wrote this incredibly creepy article about their public displays of affection, but that was really interesting to me,” he said.
“I was really struck by how much they love each other, how unashamed they are of their love, especially in a very stage-managed modern political media environment.”
Gardiner said he had contacted the office of Corrective Services Minister Jo-Anne Miller to try to buy some for the production, but had so far been unsuccessful.
“Those pink jumpsuits were just the most amazing idea borrowed from a sheriff in Texas,” he said.
“In the show, they help set up that absurd situation, so we can look at what the consequences might be.”
Bounty, produced by MKA: Theatre of New Writing, debuts at the Melbourne Fringe Festival next month.
Gardiner said he hoped Bounty would have a life north of the border next year, but it depended on funding options in the wake of federal Arts Minister – and Queenslander – George Brandis cutting the budget of the Australia Council.
In the meantime, the company’s take on Shakespeare’s Richard II, a gritty examination of leadership, worship and mateship, is playing as part of the Brisbane Festival in September.