Ask Audrey Ask Audrey
Archived

The Appleton Ladies' Potato Race

"[Tait] paints her picture of rural community with warmth and a wry smile"

Audrey review: Melanie Tait’s comedy totes weighty issues over the line and makes light work of it.

Text size
Text size
Add to favourites

The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race

Date: 25 Mar 2021

Warm-hearted yet piercing, Melanie Tait’s comedy totes weighty issues over the line and makes light work of it.

A quest for gender parity is front and centre as Dr Penny Anderson (Sharon Millerchip), a Sydney tree-changer, starts a campaign to ensure that the women competitors in Appleton’s annual spud-carrying race have a shot at the same prize money as the blokes.

A no brainer, she thinks. This is 2019 after all. But Appleton is a town that views change with suspicion and where resentment takes root as easily as a crop of King Edwards.

As Penny gently agitates for her cause (collection tins in shops; a GoFundMe campaign), reactionary forces are stirred and criticism comes from unexpected directions: from Nikki (Amber McMahon), the town hairdresser and reigning ladies’ potato race champion; from long-time race organiser Bev (Valerie Bader); and from Appleton’s Facebook trolls – many of whom Penny knows (having grown up here) or treats as their GP.

Brought up in Robertson (the home of The Big Potato), Tait draws on her personal experience of what it is to take on small town shibboleths. She paints her picture of rural community with warmth and a wry smile, but she doesn’t shy away from its less picturesque aspects and has an ear for the ways grievance is expressed in a place where everybody knows your business.

Priscilla Jackson directs a bare-bones staging (a Michael Scott-Mitchell design) whose main feature is the arse end of an old ute. Her casting is flawless. Millerchip’s Penny is a winning mix of pep and calculation. McMahon conjures Nikki from equal parts vivaciousness and spite.

Merridy Eastman is very funny as Barb, the mild-mannered race committee stalwart and comic counterpoint to Bader’s dour Bev. Sapidah Kian makes her Ensemble debut as Rania, a recently arrived Syrian refugee for whom the slow speed of change in Appleton is one of its most attractive facets.

Content
Once
Add to favourites
ArchivedEternity Playhouse, Darlinghurst, Sydney 4 Jun - 6 Aug 2021

Once

Audrey review: Once is a rare bird of a musical, one that wears its heart entirely on its sleeve.

The Picture of Dorian Gray
Add to favourites
TheatreRoslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay, Sydney 24 Jul - 22 Aug 2021

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Audrey review: Innovative storytelling and Eryn Jean Norvill's performance boost this novel-to-stage translation into the world-class league.

American Psycho
Add to favourites
ArchivedThe Playhouse, Sydney Opera House 3 - 27 Jun 2021

American Psycho

Audrey review: Little of the blood and chilling violence of the film, but this production’s sharp edges and slashing wit leave a lasting impression.

See More

More to see

View All
The Woman in Black
Add to favourites
ArchivedEnsemble Theatre, Kirrbilli, Sydney 11 Jun - 24 Jul 2021

The Woman in Black

One of the long-running plays in West End history makes its way to the close quarters of Ensemble’s intimate stage.

Grand Horizons
Add to favourites
ArchivedRoslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay, Sydney 7 Jun - 3 Jul 2021

Grand Horizons

A humorous and moving look at romance and intergenerational divides in the era of self-expression, alternative family models and... sexting.

Half Man | Half Bull
Add to favourites
ArchivedSouth Bondi Beach, Bondi, Sydney 25 Jun - 10 Jul 2021

Half Man | Half Bull

Gather around the fire for a unique pandemic-era experiment in the telling of ancient myths.

The Spook
Add to favourites
TheatreNew Theatre, Newtown, Sydney 12 Oct - 6 Nov 2021

The Spook

Inspired by a true story, Melissa Reeves creates a whimsical satire of small-town Australia, Cold War fear-mongering, friendship and betrayal.

Top