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THEATRE: 29 JULY 2016

By JOHN ROZENTALS

The Hansard Monologues: Age of Entitlement, by Katie Pollock and Paul Daley | Directed by Timothy Jones

The Seymour Centre (http://www.seymourcentre.com) and the Museum of Australian Democracy (http://moadoph.gov.au) | Glen Street Theatre (http://www.glenstreet.com.au), Belrose, Sydney | Until 31 July

I recall seeing a photograph, quite a few years ago, of that great Australian speedster Dennis Lillee bowling with a field of nine slips — the maximum possible.

The photo had been taken in Auckland in 1977, during a Test against New Zealand.

But why? The answer came later, when it was revealed that the Australian captain, Greg Chappell, was about to publish The 100th Summer, a book to mark the centenary of Test cricket, and wanted a photograph to use as a publicity gimmick.

I was reminded of that pic while watching The Hansard Monologues: Age of Entitlement at Glen Street Theatre, a delightful venue set in suburban Belrose, well to the north of Sydney’s CBD.

One of the show’s highlights concerned a 2014 episode in Federal Parliament when the Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, ejected 18 MPs during Question Time.

But why? Were the ejections really justified on the day, or was Bishop knowingly setting a daily record for the number of parliamentarians sent to the ‘sin bin’?

Bishop, of course, is the sort of character that satirists love. She really is the embodiment of — indeed a walking caricature of — extreme political behaviour.

All you have to look at are her travel arrangements, which so lent themselves to being used as the cover blurb for the show’s program ... ‘3 Years. 2 PMs. 1 Helicopter.’

In her own way, Bishop as much symbolised Australia’s 44th Federal Parliament as did Tony Abbott’s fall from grace, the ascension of Malcolm Turnbull, the larger-than-life presence of Clive Palmer, the whining voice of Jacqui Lambie, the dodo-like conservatism of Cory Bernardi and the occasional incoherence of Barnaby Joyce.

But it was a statement from Treasurer Joe Hockey — a statement actually made in Opposition before the return of a Coalition Government — that Katie Pollock and Paul Daley chose to epitomise the Federal state of political play between late 2013 and the double dissolution of Parliament on 9 May.

Regardless of when it was actually made, Hockey’s words — “the age of entitlement is over” — have become as much a part of Australian political folklore as Malcolm Fraser’s “life wasn’t meant to be easy” and Paul Keating’s “the recession we had to have”.

The Hansard Monologues: Age of Entitlement is based on Pollock’s and Day’s trawling of Hansard — the verbatim official record of everything said in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

You don’t need to embellish these records to glimpse wit, intelligence, passion and compassion. They’re all to the good.

Unfortunately, you also don’t need embellishment to witness selfishness, vitriol, arrogance, ignorance and sheer stupidity.

All are there in abundance in this show, and beautifully delivered by four leading Australian actors — Andrew Tighe, Heather Mitchell, John Gaden and Michelle Doake.

They move seamlessly between quite different characters, taking on diverse roles regardless of gender, with a large over-stage screen announcing identity.

And they show that Hockey’s “the age of entitlement is over” statement is indeed central to the current Australian experience.

But to what exactly was he referring?

The right of society’s downtrodden and otherwise unfortunate to a reasonable living? Certainly, it seems, not to the right of politicians to a hefty pension and perks such as wasting taxpayer-derived funds to charter helicopters.

This is an impressive update of the original 2013 version of the show — The Hansard Monologues: A Matter of Public Importance — and something that all Australians should see as part of their political education. Thumbs up!