We’re all in this kitchen

Tony Reck at Kathleen Mary Fallon’s Buyback

Buyback, Dayne Christian, <BR /> David Captain, Shiralee Williams Hood

Buyback, Dayne Christian, David Captain, Shiralee Williams Hood

Kathleen Mary Fallon’s Buyback: three boongs in the kitchen offers broad insights into Australian race relations, but its origins lie in a place common to us all: the kitchen.

Rhodadendron is foster mother to the physically and mentally damaged Torres Strait Islander, Jimmy. It’s a Queensland Christmas of Christianity and Anzac biscuits, and Rhoda has returned to the parental home to spend the festive season with her folks: post- traumatic Theodolite and family matriarch ‘Sparkling Shirley’.

Palm trees above a black and white tiled floor hint at a ‘paradise’ underpinned by a history of racial violence-territory similarly charted in Ross Gibson’s 2002 book, Seven Versions of an Australian Badland. Rhoda’s good intentions in fostering the manic and unpredictable Jimmy have not taken into account the consequences of adopting a disabled Torres Strait Islander, or her own subconscious motives in doing so. It soon becomes apparent that Rhoda’s rebelliousness toward her white Australian upbringing has expressed itself in the adoption. Wrestling with love, guilt and an ingrained colonialism, Rhoda is set to explode.

Jimmy’s siblings arrive: sister Dolly and the iconoclastic Dennis. When the inevitable occurs, the fallout is less melodramatic, and more paradigmatic. Fallon’s script straddles a cultural historical tripwire-from Kanak labour importation and Stolen Generations to Theodolite’s childhood fear of “the boong in the back paddock” and its sublimation in the Anzac myth. From nowhere, a mythology emerges: a curious blend of Aboriginal dreaming and left of centre cultural theory, emphasising an indeterminate imagination and its essential pluralism, personified by Dolly’s tribal dance and her performance of a birdman myth. But Buyback… is also a play about absent mothers, and when it is revealed that Jimmy’s natural mother has died, without an opportunity to see her son, a most disturbing incident occurs.

The linking of Jimmy’s mother’s spirit and her presence in the kitchen with the entrance of a black transvestite Santagram was a moment only obtainable in the theatre. Was it perhaps indicative of something unresolved in the writing or a nuance requiring a swift lighting change or a defining shift in space to underline its presence and articulate its meaning? What it did confirm was that because of our individual values, the tales we have heard and the tales we want to tell, and our resulting cultural differences, we are all guests in this house. Unlike Theodolite, who builds a bunker out of fruitcake, Buyback’s pluralist script and courageous performances dismantle the walls that divide us and show how, with its messy and violent history, Australia has become a culture partly in denial. Plays set in kitchens, absent mothers and a history of bloody colonialism: you can’t live with them, you can’t live without them.

See also Keith Gallasch’s review of Call Me Mum, the Margot Nash film of Buyback.

Buyback: three boongs in the kitchen, writer, director Kathleen Mary Fallon, performers Dayne Christian, David Captain, Shiralee Williams Hood, Barry Webster, Sky Lilly Simpson, Marie-Therese Byrne, Ronald Johnson, set & lighting Bevan Vahland, Michelle Dunn, musicians Ricardo Idagi, Henry Phianesa, producer: James Adler, Eagle’s Nest Theatre, La Mama, Melbourne, Aug 30-Sep 17

RealTime issue #75 Oct-Nov 2006 pg

© Tony Reck; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 2006