By Stefo Nantsou
Zeal Theatre, Civic Playhouse, Newcastle, February 17 & 18
Reviewed by Frank Razmovski
Stefo Nantsou's play of corporate and political corruption sketches the past 30 years of Australian history as an epic cartoon comedy.
The world's number one money game, Monopoly, provides an appropriate allegorical setting in which the "fictional characters" of the Dog, Eileen and Holden Monaro (car), Brenda Chapeau (hat), Sir Bevan Rider (horse), Frank Wheelbarrow, Miss Thimble, Sir Terence Cannon, the Iron Bodgie and others move from Old Kent Road to Kings Cross Station to the inevitable big end of town — Mayfair.
Along the way, Dogwell's Merchant Bank is formed, CastleTeeth Brewery is bought and sold, a woman politician becomes premier and a royal commission destroys the "Loyal Party".
The larger than life world of the play exposes the real world of state and federal governments' wheeling and dealing with high flying corporate business giants over the past three decades. No-one is named, but Holden Monaro may well be Alan Bond; Chapeau, Joan Kirner; Terence Cannon, Terence Lewis. And there are numerous echoes of Kerry Packer, Neville Wran, John Elliott, the Nugan Hand Bank, plus a hilarious portrayal of the International Monetary Fund where "the Receiver" is born.
The real power of Debts however, is the linking of the personal with the political. As their business world expands, the Monaros' marriage disintegrates. Wheelbarrow dumps his old mate the Dog. The mateship world which Bob Hawke epitomises is shown as little more than power play and backstabbing, all in the name of greed and money.
Zeal Theatre's production is very slick. The cast is a strong ensemble who sing, dance, play instruments and move from one characterisation to another with an energy and excitement rarely seen on the stage these days.
Allan Gannaway's music and Meg Dunn's colourful costumes are an enormous bonus in this show — particularly in the Strand, where a fashion house, bathed in red, comes alive in a musical dance of decadence, and the fantastic opening sequence in which the Car speeds towards an auction at the purple Old Kent Road.
Zeal Theatre is taking Debts to the Adelaide Fringe Festival in March for a two week season. As an unfunded professional company, Zeal hopes to raise money for the tour by presenting two special benefit performances at the Civic Playhouse, Newcastle, on February 17 and 18 (Monday and Tuesday nights) at 8 p.m. (Phone 52 1200 for bookings and donations.) Adelaide performances are at the Tandanya Theatre from March 9 to 22.