The Truth About Kookaburras, written and directed by Sven Swenson, begins the morning after a football team’s debaucherous Buck’s night, when a body is discovered in their change room. What ensues is not so much murder investigation, as an examination of the psychology of male identity.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? I know I was very excited to see this play. I’d heard a lot about it, both in 2009 when it was on at Metro Arts and in the hype that has surrounded its sell-out return season (brought to you by Pentimento Productions and La Boite’s Indie programme). It sounded like it was going to be a really unique, intense and interesting piece of theatre. On many levels, it was exactly that. The unity of the ensemble, especially physically, was impressive and the tense atmosphere was brilliantly created and maintained as the drama unfolded. I found time whizzed by and I desperately wanted to know what would happen next.
Unfortunately, the anti-feminist theme in the play did somewhat eclipse all these great qualities for me. You know when you see a play, and a character’s voice is clearly the playwright’s? There was one of those moments just before interval. It was a rant about the way feminism has disenfranchised men, and how men don’t have good role models and they just don’t know who they are or how to behave anymore. Now, I’m honestly not sure if this play was intentionally anti-feminist. It could be a by-product of simply flagging that this ‘disenfranchisement of men’ is an issue. Perhaps we are still in an adjustment period where older generations of men are still struggling to accept women’s new roles and hence aren’t able to be acceptable role models for younger men (if so, surely an adjustment that needs to happen). But…what can be done about this? Are women expected to apologise for being equal because it has confused some people? (Yes, I’m oversimplifying matters, I know. And perhaps Swenson’s point is that there is no easy answer).
If the play isn’t intended to be anti-feminist, then there is a problem because it can very easily be interpreted that way. Especially as one of the few female characters, the cop running the investigation, continually makes disparaging remarks about men and slides dangerously close to the ‘bra-burning, man-hating’ stereotype that is all too common. Again, this may be because it’s hard to properly deal with so many characters in any realistic amount of time on stage.
If The Truth About Kookaburras is intentionally anti-feminist, well that’s a completely different kettle of fish, which I can’t really delve into without morphing from ‘review’ into ‘essay’. I hope that something that does not promote equality would not be taken very seriously in this day and age, but then again Campbell Newman is Premier of Queensland and I’m no longer sure of anything. Certainly, this is a highly entertaining play that has and will continue to provoke much thought and discussion.
The show runs until 23 June at the Roundhouse Theatre but the season is now sold-out
For more information visit LaBoite