Australian political thriller premieres in Sydney

Robert Cockburn’s explosive new play The Hotel Hibiscusis an Australian political play that questions our complicity and silence in war crimes carried out just 20 years ago, and it will debut this month at the Zenith Theatre in Chatswood.

Dominic McDonald and Sopa Enari in The Hotel Hibiscus
Dominic McDonald and Sopa Enari in The Hotel Hibiscus

Sent secretly to a Pacific island off Papua New Guinea to run a dirty war for an Australian gold mine, Colonel Chris Baulkham falls in love with with Doctor Patty Carmichael, an academic whom he fools into providing his cover.

Colonel Baulkham is a puppeteer, juggling his and Patty’s worlds as she and her staff unwittingly risk their lives to support his gruesome work and war crimes. Politics become dangerously personal and the strings begin to tangle as Patty uncovers the inconceivable truth.

This play about the misuse of soldiers was inspired by the conflict in the 1990s for control of an Australian mine on Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville Island. An astonishing 15,000 civilians – or nearly 10% of the population – were to die. By uncovering the misuse of soldiers for political and corporate greed, Cockburn’s work reveals how decent people can become complicit in crimes against humanity.

Playwright Robert Cockburn reported on the Bougainville conflict for The Times, the BBC, the ABC and to Amnesty International after investigating the army’s murder of a tyoung bus driver. As The Hotel Hibiscus debuts, real and difficult questions are still being asked of Rio Tinto and others in Australia accused of turning their backs on the people of Bougainville.

The Hotel Hibiscus is directed by Greg Friend and stars a superb cast of Australian stage and film actors with Aboriginal star Billy McPherson (Dead Heart with Bryan Brown), Dominic McDonald straight from his lead role in The Tempest Steampunked for the Sydney Fringe Festival, Amanda Jermyn, Sopa Enari, Colin Huxley, Charlotte Hazzard – fresh from graduating from WAAPA – and Sudanese-born Mandela Mathia in his stage debut.

Performances begin 19th October. For bookings and more information visit

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and is the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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