Grover Theatre company is excited to be presenting their first show of 2019, the quintessentially Australian, Dinkum Assorted by Linda Aronson.
The play is set in an Australian country town biscuit factory during World War II and two thousand US airmen have just been stationed outside town. The show depicts how the all-female cast factory workers fight to save the factory, run a ‘Mum’s Army’ Civil Defence Unit and put on a show for the War Effort – oh, yes, and deal with the US airmen!
For director, Hannah Bird, her involvement is a salute to her Dad.
“When I was fourteen years old I had the honour of having my father direct me in this play,” she says about her father, Tony. “It was a beautiful example to a young woman of how other woman can band together and support each other, and how important it is to do so. I feel that message resonates so much today and I felt it was time for the amazing women in our community to be highlighted.”
Dinkum Assorted not only has unusual casting (15 women and a nanny goat!) but also presents certain challenges as far as set is concerned. It is also a wild comedy coupled with pathos, making it a work that requires some emotional fine tuning by both director and actors. As director, Bird outlines some of her challenges.
“First and foremost, this show literally calls for a biscuit oven on stage, so that was our first hurdle to overcome. The other challenge jumping out at me I guess was being able to tell a heartfelt story while keeping to the comedic nature of the script. In an ensemble piece you want to make sure everyone in the cast is highlighted in some way, so it became a balancing act of when to allow the chaos and then when to be quiet and sit in the tragedy of what these women were facing.”
Bird’s favourite part of the rehearsal process is the initial blocking stage. “The part where you’re still experimenting with what looks and feels good and getting to know everyone’s on and offstage persona,” she says acknowledging that there’s a certain intimacy that comes from being in a space with a group of people and throwing ideas out. “Whether they work or not doesn’t matter, it’s more about learning to be comfortable enough to just put it out there and try.”
As a director, Bird started in comedy and comedy is where she finds she has the most fun. “I love being able to get silly and stupid while you’re experimenting and when something clicks, hearing the reactions of everyone watching,” she says.
With 15 cast members to find, it is no wonder that Bird’s auditions were held over a very long day. By the end of the day Bird had at least double the number of auditionees that she could cast. “The person sitting in with me that day can attest that every time someone else walked out of the room, my job got even harder” she says. “It was such a tough show to cast because honestly everyone who auditioned could have fit in so well. I think that is a testament to the amazing (sometimes underutilized) female talent we have in our community.”
Bird is the founder and chairperson of GTC. The company began in 2017 with the aim to promote a healthy and supportive environment for anyone who wants to explore their theatrical and creative nature. Since then, it has been a home away from home for a lot of Bird’s friends. The company holds a pro active view toward creating a safe space for people to explore and grow. “We don’t have a long history yet but I believe we have a very long and bright future,” says Bird.
Although written in 1988, Dinkum Assorted seems to hold more of an iconic space within the scope of Australian work than its pedigree might suggest. I ask Bird her view on whether she thinks there are enough Australian work done on our stages:
“There is definite room for more theatre companies to be open to showcasing more Australian works. On Australianplays.org alone there are hundreds of amazing originals written by talented Aussie authors, but unfortunately so many companies are preoccupied with the new and exciting works coming from Broadway and West End that we forget the quality being produced here. I think there is so much more room for Australian plays to be brought to a wider audience.”
For Bird, Dinkum Assorted is a beautiful story with a really heart warming message. “It is an important piece of history for Australian women, history that doesn’t get spoken about nearly enough,” she say. “This play is so wonderfully written and fun to direct and perform. But most of all, it’s fun to watch and everything you are seeing up on stage has been the product of months of hard work by fifteen amazing women who have really poured their hearts into it.”
Dinkum Assorted asks us to enter the world of these women where they come together to laugh, cry, sing and tap dance around stage as they plot to save Australia’s iconic biscuit, become air raid wardens, put on a show for two thousand American airmen, and kidnap Rita the goat – the regimental mascot. Truly a fun night out!
April 4 – 6