Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister and Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop – the great hopes for the ALP and the Coalition. At least that is how they are presented in part in the political spoof Gone Girls. It is a cleverly written and performed work that is part fact and large part fiction.
They entered politics on the same day in 1998. The way it is depicted, Gillard is more of the wide-eyed innocent, Bishop the no nonsense attack dog. They lock horns and break bread at The Lodge and in the ladies’ room at parliament house, not to overlook the floor of the house. Bishop’s role is to undermine Gillard, especially when the latter rises to the position of the country’s leader, although before it is over, it becomes a “love in”. Mind you, try as she repeatedly does, Gillard struggles to extract the “f” word (feminist) from Bishop.
The piece starts out with an amusing song and dance routine, before charting the history of the women in the House of Representatives. That is accompanied by facts on a video screen backdrop about the number of women in parliament at key junctures and not so accurate measures of the PM’s popularity. We’re also treated to a few snippets of actuality by way of “telling”, historic video and audio footage.
There is much humour throughout, as the fertile imaginations of playwrights and performers Patrick Livesey (as Gillard) and Annabel Larcombe are evident. And we don’t just span the late ‘90s until 2019, when Bishop left parliament after her failed leadership bid. The piece harks back to 1943 and the epilogue moves ahead to 2098, when Gillard is presented as a gun toting mercenary.
Livesey and Larcombe have a great deal of fun throughout. They are a talented duo who appear to revel in the heightened caricatures they have created. Unfortunately, their voices don’t always project well to the upper reaches of the theatre. Further, the music is too loud for the opening salvo, all but drowning out some of what is being sung. A lot is thrown at us in a little over an hour, so it pays to concentrate.
The last act – the flight of fancy – goes on for too long and could readily have been pared back. In fact, the production would benefit from doing so. And a final, perhaps nit-picking point, involves the elegant, framed photos of the two protagonists that greet us on either side of the stage as we enter the theatre. Why is the picture of Gillard on the right and Bishop on the left? Was that, too, a deliberate comical device or just an oversight?
In summary then, while Gone Girls is an often laugh aloud hoot, it still has room for improvement. Co-directed by Wil King, it is playing at Gasworks until 6th August, 2022.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Dirt (Chapel Off Chapel) – theatre review
- Calendar Girls (Prince Moo) – theatre review
- Boyle and Waters in Leotard (debase productions) – Theatre Review
Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.