Review: The Club

By taking David Williamson’s blokey satire The Club back to the 70s with an all-female cast, isthisyours? shows we haven’t escaped the bad old days just yet.

The AFL (formerly the VFL) has taken many progressive steps since David Williamson’s 1977 satire of the macho world of Aussie Rules football. Now a national, professional competition, the AFL promotes equality with many social causes and runs a long overdue national women’s competition, AFLW.

Back pats all-round. The misogynistic days of Williamson’s The Club are long gone – best highlighted by the fact that the Neanderthal remarks on women’s football by a former Carlton president (who perfectly represents those bad old days) were routinely ignored or mocked the day before 53,034 went to see the Crows win their second AFLW premiership. But, as isthisyours? shows with this production of an Aussie classic, we shouldn’t be cheering our (almost) national past time’s progressive shift to equality just yet.

isthisyours?, creators of 2017’s incredibly innovative and funny Angelique, accomplishes this with hilarious caricatures of the main players in the first half. Three of the group’s founders – Louise Mignone, Nadia Rossi and Ellen Steele – play all six mustachioed characters of The Club who, in the club’s dull orange-tinged and oh, so 70s boardroom, scheme to pull the club in different directions.

Louisa Mignone and Ellen Steele in The Club (Photo: Chris Herzfeld)
Louisa Mignone and Ellen Steele in The Club (Photo: Chris Herzfeld)

The club, which is never named, is in trouble. Its best days are behind them, they’re on a losing streak and their big money recruit is out of form. A very funny Mignone is slippery footy administrator Gerry. He’s trying to rip the club from its suburban roots and into the modern world with the club’s president, Ted (Rossi), who’s been slagged in the press by the faithful and loyal coach, Laurie (Steele, brilliant). Along with former captain and coach, Jock (Rossi again), current captain Danny (Steele) and out of form and off with the clouds recruit Geoff (Mignone), the alpha males posture and pose and threaten and scheme and it’s all completely over the top and absolutely hilarious. But all is not as it seems. Mignone amusingly breaks character when the other actors switch character on stage.

Things take a dark and absurd turn in the second half. Geoff and Jock return as literal swinging dicks while the sexism, which was played for laughs before the interval, are not all that amusing when a line is delivered by a giant talking head composite of football identities guilty of misogyny. The Club’s second half is a reminder of football’s recent crimes and misdemeanors, as the more the production changes to reflect a modern shift to equality the more some things stay the same.

With this remarkable and, at times, unpredictable production, isthisyours? gives this Aussie 70s standard an update that encapsulates 2019.

The Club
Space Theatre
Until Saturday, April 20
statetheatrecompany.com.au

Header image:
Chris Herzfeld

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