|The Cast of the Appleton Ladies Potato Race.( L - R)
Amber McMahon - Merridy Eastman - Sapidah Kian - Sharon Millerchip - Valerie Bader
Written Melanie Tate – Directed by Priscilla Jackman
by Michael Scott-Mitchell – Costumes designed by Genevieve Graham
designed by Karen Norris – Sound Designed by Teagan Nicholls.
Canberra Theatre Centre in association with Ensemble Theatre.
Theatre Centre Playhouse 3 – 5th June 2021.
on 3rd June reviewed by Bill Stephens .
doctor moves into town and discovers that the winners of the women’s section of
the annual potato race are paid less than those in the men’s section. In an effort to ingratiate herself with the
townspeople, she decides to initiate a campaign to right this perceived wrong,
only to discover, to her bewilderment, that her strongest opposition comes from
the town’s women. So rather than being lauded for her efforts she finds herself
becoming increasingly more isolated.
ensemble cast of five actresses make up the entire cast, and each of them gets
a moment to shine in this warm-hearted comedy, inspired by playwright, Melanie
Tate’s own experiences in the NSW country town of Robertson. An award- winning playwright, Tate has
fashioned an entertaining play, packed with witty one-liners, often deliciously
subversive, which disguise the seriousness of some of the issues which fuel the
reactions of the various characters, but which tend to linger in the
consciousness after the laughter has died down.
Millerchip is delightful as Penny Anderson, the well-meaning young doctor, who
also happens to be a lesbian, and who finds herself the unwitting focus of the
town’s ire. Sapidah Kian gives a charming performance as Rania, a refugee new
to the town, trying to find a place for herself in the community, but willing
to risk all to help Penny achieve her goal.
|Valerie Bader - Merridy Eastman
Bader plays Bev Armstrong, the hard-bitten, heart-of-gold town elder. She has
all the best laughs and nails every one of them with unerring precision, while
rubber-faced Merridy Eastman is a constant joy as her genial friend and ally,
Barb Ling, who carries a surprising secret.
is the hardworking hairdresser, Nikki Armstrong, mother-of – four and regular
winner of the Appleton potato race, who surprisingly is the person most opposed
to any changes to the race prize money. Amber McMahon’s carefully nuanced
performance in this role captures beautifully
Nikki’s conflict in wanting to be a friend to Penny, while protecting
her own goals.
|Saidah Kian - Sharon Millerchip - Amber McMahon
Jackman’s direction is economical and inventive. All the action takes place
around a single striking set-piece, a rusting Holden Ute. A clever device
conjured up by designer Michael Scott-Mitchell which brilliantly sets the
country-town atmosphere. The actors bring on any additional props necessary for
particular scenes, and then efficiently clear them when they’re no longer
does “The Appleton Ladies Potato Race” tell a delightful story, it is also a
charmingly unpretentious showcase for five superb actors, whose names most of
the audience will never know.
the decision of the production houses or the presenting venue, it is becoming
increasingly usual not to have programs available on the night for the
audience. The Canberra Theatre Centre sends out online programs for patrons to
either view at home, or (surely not) on their phones during a performance. It
is doubtful how many of the audience even notice or bother to look at these.
because of Covid” explained a helpful usher, though free programs were placed
on the seats for performances of the STC’s “A German Life”. Not only is it
demeaning to the artists not to be identified, the programs also provide a
cherished souvenir, and a historical record of the performance.
Photos by Phil Erbacher.
This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. www.artsreview.com.au