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By Lois Maskiell

                                       

How to unite four short documentary plays in one production? It turns out finding a common theme in each of them is enough to pull off such a task. And that’s exactly what the creative team behind Tales from the Jetty have managed to do.

The show starts in 1884 when a group of naturalists hike up a coastal path in Wilsons Promontory to reach a beach they’ll eventually try to save. It then moves to the present day in Albert Park Lake where a university student has a chance encounter with runners from a club for people with a disability. You’re soon immersed in a living room in St Kilda, where a group of mothers are figuring out what to do with a pile of unwanted baby items. Next, an uncomfortable conversation between two event organisers and a state government minister reveals how the Midsumma Pride March became an annual celebration in Melbourne.

Presented by Melbourne Writers’ Theatre, founded in 1982, this production showcases the work of four playwrights. Capturing our Natural World from writer Bruce Shearer opens the show, led by actors Emma Cox, Ross Larkin and Alec Gilbert and featuring Kristina Benton and Celia Handscombe playing members of the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria. Shearer’s well-crafted dialogue allows the actors to bring to life, with a great deal of humour, a group of passionate nature enthusiasts. A standout performance comes from Kristina Benton. Benton incites much laughter as a verbose government spokesperson.


Written by Alison Knight, A Walk in the Park tells the story of how a media studies student, performed by Cosima Gilbert, becomes involved with Achilles Melbourne. Playing the organisation’s volunteers are Donna de Palma, Madeline Seiter and Monica Wong. Seiter delivers a strong performance as a runner, with Knight using her dialogue to outline the international organisation’s rich history, beginning in New York in 1976.

The stage design doesn’t change when Celia Handscombe, Marnie Gibson, Emma Cox and Alec Gilbert appear in The Birth of St Kilda Mums. Adele Shelley’s script, along with a few simple props, is enough to create the living room where St Kilda Mums is founded. These mothers are on a mission to collect baby items from those who no longer need them and redistribute them to those who do. Gibson’s memorable performance as one of the mothers is both heartwarming and hilarious.

11,000 and Counting by stage and screen writer Gregory Vines documents the origins of Melbourne’s yearly Pride March. Kristina Benton and Ross Larkin play the organisers who are seeking support from Alec Gilbert, a state government minister, and his assistants, Marnie Gibson and Cosima Gilbert. Vines’ smart dialogue is at once disturbing and comic, and it shows the obstacles the organisers faced when trying to launch what has become an important celebration in Melbourne’s calendar.

Based on interviews, this verbatim theatre production documents four different stories that share a common thread. Under Elizabeth Walley’s (The Trauma Project, Louder than Words) direction, the production comes together in an engaging and cohesive whole aided by sound and lighting by D.B Valentine.


Sincere, life affirming and entertaining, Tales from the Jetty is a brilliant reflection of real people exploring what it means to be part of a community.

More information and performance times here: https://gasworks.org.au/whats-on/tales-jetty

Images: Anna Moloney-Heath