Denim. Hair gel. A nice Australian neighbourhood. Power chords.
The quintessential ingredients to any 80s farce, Battlers and Dreamers is an original musical take-off of all those classic Aussie family dramas you knew and loved, some of which are somehow still going.
A family managing the local pub struggles to make ends meet as eldest daughter Charmayne Grundy (Lauren Pegus) grows slowly more enamoured with local heartthrob Shane (Philippe Klause). A mullet-topped motorbike-tragic with a mysterious past, Shane doesn’t remember anything at all before he first rode into town.
Not the only case of amnesia whose origin will inevitably be made clear by the end of proceedings, the unapologetically soapish musings of the cast will get a laugh out of anyone who ever indulged in the stalwarts of Australian television, even if some of the suspense-heavy stares into the distance or ‘cliff-hangers’ (notwithstanding the play’s parodic underpinnings) are significantly overstated.
Klause is the real stand-out here – playing up every trope you can think of, his delivery, not least of all during a couple of Shane’s amateur rap sessions, is a treat. Stopping intermittently for some vaudeville-esque wordless skits, including a scene on Shane’s motorbike and a couple featuring dad Grundy (Lynden Jones) – the rationale of the latter, while not unentertaining, like many of the play’s diversions from the main plot(s) are not always entirely clear or warranted.
Harley Connor delights as dodgy land developer Clinton Hardcastle, together with Angeline Neville as the other Grundy child contributing to some of the more absurdist and enjoyable elements of the play, which gradually shifts into more farcical territory later on.
Battlers and Dreamers is an affectionate satire which will play best to those already largely-familiar with the serials it lambasts, while the sight gags and amusing finale, not complete without a classically 80s group number, prove the highlights of the production.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
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