It is a timely, challenging and inspired production that resonates with all ages.
Shannon Haegler as Doctor Sameer and Nelle Lee as Rachel in Tequila Mockingbird. Presented by shake & stir theatre co and Queensland Performing Arts Centre.
The mockingbird is noted for its mimicry of the calls and songs of other birds. Take this idea to an Australian outback town – where the words of a few can stir up the voices of many – add a dash of hard liquor and you have shake & stir theatre co’s production, Tequila Mockingbird, currently on at QPAC’s Cremorne Theatre.
Shake & stir’s Co-Artistic Director Nelle Lee wrote this acclaimed play, inspired by Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning classic, To Kill A Mockingbird. This play is one of a number of productions by shake & stir to re-present classic texts through a contemporary lens. Though the original novel was first published in 1960, its themes remain relevant to contemporary audiences, and Tequila Mockingbird reinforces its pertinence today within an Australian context.
When a terrible incident occurs in the small town, the local doctor Sameer newly arrived from India falls under suspicion. A number of townspeople seem to harbour resentment to that which is unknown and unfamiliar. This prejudice and discrimination clouds judgement; it is a case of guilty until proven innocent. The town’s lawyer Richard is the voice of reason, standing against this bigotry and promoting justice.
Touring Queensland during October, the themes explored in the play are hugely relevant to contemporary audiences. Raising issues of racism, domestic violence and a drinking culture, the play sheds light on topical issues in Australia. In the context of offshore detention, curbed refugee intakes, cultural intolerance and the recent rise of One Nation, the play offers us a space to consider how we – individually and as a society – treat and welcome our neighbours. It presents a human story, encouraging us to dig deeper and not succumb to the fear and distrust of ‘the other’, which is unfortunately so often played upon in politics and mainstream media outlets.
The play delves into the terror of domestic violence. It points to the importance of a support network for the victim to reach out to before it is too late. Equally it highlights the necessity of society recognising the signs, not turning a blind eye and sticking one’s neck out for another less fortunate.
After premiering at QPAC in 2013, Tequila Mockingbird was nominated for multiple Matilda Awards, winning Best Mainstage Production and the Gold Matilda Award. Lighting and music were used to tremendous effect to building tension throughout the play. The set, while sparse, was innovatively used to present this engaging story. While some characters were contemporary Australian archetypes, they were skilfully used to offer the audience moments of hilarity amid the otherwise confronting subject matter. Other characters were multifaceted and complex, all portrayed through outstanding performances.
The current tour of Tequila Mockingbird offers an excellent opportunity for local audiences to see this moving and thought-provoking play. It is a timely, challenging and inspired production that resonates with all ages.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5
Presented by shake & stir theatre co
Featuring Ross Balbuziente, Shannon Haegler, Nelle Lee, Barbara Lowing, Bryan Probets, Nick Skubij
Writer Nelle Lee
Director Michael Futcher
Designer Josh McIntosh
Lighting Designer Jason Glenwright
Sound Designer Guy Webster
Cremorne Theatre, QPAC
5-15 October 2016
Ipswich, Civic Centre, 18 October
Toowoomba, Empire Theatre, 19 October
Sunshine Coast, Lake Kawana Community Centre, 20 October
Yeppoon, St Brendan’s College Performing Arts Centre, 22 October
Maryborough, Brolga Theatre, 26 October
Mackay, Entertainment & Convention Centre, 29 October
Cairns, Centre of Contemporary Arts, 31 October to 1 November
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What the stars mean?
- Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
- Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
- Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
- Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
- Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
- Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
- Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
- One star: Awful, to be avoided
- Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level