Marcel Dorney has brought meaning to the word ‘Punk’ by writing the backstory to a fictional band from Brisbane, 1979. The local history lesson here is necessary and potent for our ingenuous Melbourne audience. Ultra-conservative Premier Johannes Bjelke-Petersen has been reigning for more than a decade, and grooming his crooked Police Force for longer still. Rights of free assembly, movement and protest are violently quashed, along with a cracking down on any point-of-difference to Queensland’s eerily quaint fundamentalist lifestyle. The damning words of the eventual 1989 Fitzgerald Inquiry are writ large on the foyer wall, and surely many went home researching or asking relatives and friends for first-hand accounts.
These politics from another time and place mightn’t have been so brutally arresting if not for the meticulous writing effort from Dorney (and undoubtedly the work of many Elbow Room Theatre creatives over the last 3 runs). The audience stay immersed and respected while gliding between gripping story and frank Brechtian reality. The actors are effortlessly carried by the words of these young people; not yet hopeless but barely coping with the consequences of their suburban alienation and imposed constraints. Emotions soar.
“… and the tears are a real surprise, because the anger, the frustration, you knew all that, but you don’t make a sound like that unless you’re furious about something you love.”
The Melbourne Critique wishes the very best for this team of compassionate, switched-on artists on their tour to Edinburgh 2018 next week. Brigid Gallacher, Grace Cummings, Sahil Saluja and Zachary Pidd require no superlatives except to say they are perfectly cast, allowing the script to take them deep into the heart of four uniquely beautiful characters. This play steers away from cliché at every turn and the original songs are an ample punk initiation for even the most disco-fied punters. Prehistoric makes you want to start a band or even a riot, and it makes civil disobedience seem less far-fetched and even more necessary today.
Prehistoric is sold out but catch it at Summerhall’s Demonstration Room, Edinburgh Fringe from Aug 1st – 26th.