Theatre review: Queenslander, Jute Theatre Company

A family political drama with Orwellian overtones

The play opens in the backyard of a replica, quintessential two-storey Queenslander home. The size and style of the dwelling is painstakingly recreated down to the finest detail by Simone Tesorieri. The set dominates the stage and the Queenslander could be placed in any town across the Sunshine State. Cairns and the Far North take centre stage with many references familiar to locals. In conjunction with the sprawling set are the costumes developed by Simona Cosentini, helping to meld the characters into the landscape and linking them to the Cairns lifestyle.

The three performers playing the Diamond family have true-to-life relationships, which makes their interactions all the more genuine. Roz Diamond and Mish Diamond, played by Madonna Davies and Julia Allman respectively, open the show with a ‘discussion’ that feels authentic and sets up the crux of the action to come – the welcoming home from the ‘Big House’ of the seemingly favoured child Lenny Diamond, played by Andrew RJ Warren.

Both Roz’s downplaying and Mish’s scathing descriptions of Lenny, give an impression of a good-for-nothing drop-kick. The viewers’ opinion is quickly inverted when Lenny Diamond arrives and you see that he is just a young man trying to find his purpose.

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The Diamond family’s reunion is made all the more convoluted by Mish’s husband Craig Lancaster, who seems a timid and agreeable ‘yes-man’ in line for a promotion. Mish hopes that Lenny will behave or Craig’s job and her macro-influencer aspirations will be in danger. As the political and moral landscape changes, will the family change with it?

Sam Gibb’s lighting effects added an oppressive tension, creating an Orwellian feel with a modern twist – intensifying as the play reaches its penultimate climax, which you don’t see coming and are helpless to stop.

Music composer and sound designer Tony Brumpton further augments this newly written theatre piece with the sounds of curlews. The mournful calls leave audiences feeling like they’ve been transported to night time in Cairns, yet had a slight robotic quality, juxtaposed at times by the sounds of drones flying around like annoying flies.

The rapper Buttah lends some lyrics to the production as the co-lyricist, brought to life through the voice of Andrew RJ Warren. The raps are a visceral form of expression that have the audience riding on every word, with a sense of urgency due to the soul-baring nature of the artform. Lyrics aren’t the only things that hit in this show with the production crew, including stage fighting director, Andy Fraser, choreographing some realistic bouts that will have you cringing to dodge the punishment.

Written by Sue Chamberlain, this production pushes the audience’s beliefs with over-arching themes of dystopian/alternate reality, anti-disestablishment, and family morals. Working closely with dramaturg Kathryn Ash, the writing merges with the stage directions in a succinct manner for continuity, ensuring director Suellen Maunder got the most out of the cast.

Queenslander by Sue Chamberlain, Jute Theatre Company

Director: Suellen Maunder
Dramaturg: Kathryn Ash
Set Designer: Simone Tesorieri
Costume Designer: Simona Cosentini
Production Manager and Lighting Designer: Sam Gibb
Stage Manager: Rachel Bradley
Sound Designer and Composer: Tony Brumpton
Fight Director: Andy Fraser
Co-lyricist: Buttah

Cast: Julia Allman, Andrew RJ Warren, Patrick Mays, Madonna Davies

Tickets: from $43.29

Queenslander will be performed until 19 March 2022

Douglas Robins is an Arts worker in far north Queensland, is fanatical about theatre and believes theatre should always be inclusive to all. He completed a B.A. in Theatre and English at James Cook University, Cairns in 2011. An author of short plays and theatre reviews, an actor, director and president of community theatre company Tropical Arts Inc.