Reports of Melbourne’s renowned theatres all being closed this weekend are false. A Daniel Andrews’s scripted tragicomedy Let’s Lock Up The People has taken the city and the country by storm. Dan is so versatile he doubles as a playwright, stuntman and the Victorian Premier (more of Dan soon).
Let’s Lock Up The People has played to packed houses throughout the year — Covid notwithstanding — with matinees every day during the latest fourteen-day statewide lockdown. Three cheers to the handsomely paid cast and crew for their unstinting dedication.
Operating from a cosy bunker at 1 Treasury Place, the Theatre of the Absurd, a short stroll from Spring Street, is conveniently in the same building as the Victorian Premier’s office.
All rehearsals take place in the theatre — but some performances have been in the open air to ‘soften’ some of the more challenging parts of the play. You know. The really absurd bits about locking up almost seven million people for a fortnight or longer.
With the actual, and much-hyped star of the show, Dan M Andrews, laid low after taking a nasty tumble on some steps – it fell to others to ensure the show went ahead.
Who would have thought the very unremarkable Martin Foley would shine as a leading hand in an all-male, five-hander tragicomedy. Such presence, such gravitas, such pizzazz: Foley’s spell-binding performances have left packed houses breathless for more. How it’s taken till his mid-career to be discovered remains a mystery to the theatre world. It’s like Geoffrey Rush and Shine. His future looks bright.
Without exception, every audience has expressed its delight and adoration for the leading hand — but let’s not underplay little-known rising stars, James Merlino and narrator, Jeroen Weimar. It’s said that Weimar could literally talk under wet cement and that he frequently does.
Both these hidden talents — Merlino and Weimar — have been unleashed on unsuspecting audiences day and night, so much so that they, along with Foley, have become household names. Broadway has made inquiries about the production and talks for a 2023 season in the US are well advanced.
The ‘laugh out loud’ script — delivered with such subtlety and faux sincerity — is hilariously absurd from start to finish.
A masterpiece of the genre, the absurdity centres on a hapless government and its hopelessly floundering health officials trying to manage a persistent virus. Rather than actually managing the health challenge, the government determines on a path to incarcerate the entire population. All the while the former health minister/current Premier/stuntman and brilliant scriptwriter Dan Andrews remains flat on his back at home, supported by a phalanx of medical specialists ensuring his imminent return to stardom.
In a theatrical move, so cunning and yet bordering on the unfunny Andrews doesn’t build lots of new jails for the populace. He locks everyone up in their own houses. Sheer genius. Throw a large blanket over the entire population, so the logic goes, and you smother everyone –and the virus –simultaneously. Gone are the jobs, hopes, aspirations, businesses and well-being of everyone in pursuit of a virus for which there is a vaccine. Bloody clever that.
Who but someone with Andrews’s total ignorance of commerce, business, economic reality or concern for human welfare would have landed on such a fiendish plot and then put the whole production on stage? All this from the comfort of his bedroom with Cath and the kids to pamper him through the last tough few months.
According to even the harshest critics this is a once in a lifetime production. “No State does it better than Victoria,” said a posse of young school kids hanging around the stage door. “You get out of school work, and everyone passes. How awesome is that?” they chortled.
Whether the play is entirely the work of Dan alone, or the team of about a hundred writers and wordsmiths that support his office, remains a mystery.
So skilful is the script and so brilliantly rendered as to keep audiences on the edge of their seats it’s likely others had a hand in the final version of this remarkable work.
The other unlikely talent not to be pooh-poohed, in any way, is Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton, who appears, perversely yet hilariously, to have developed an unhealthy addiction to a unique blend of Spring Street Kool-Aid.
It’s understood to be the same brew consumed in vast quantities by the entire Andrews’ Cabinet. “We all drink the stuff,” said one utterly unknown Minister. “It helps us stick to the script and forget the very offensive ‘tweets’ we get in tidal waves when Dan ‘does his thing.”
“Voters can be so ungrateful at times,” said this dimwit. “We’re working day and night to safeguard the community from the virus , yet you’d reckon they think we’re trying to trample over their rights and make life really difficult. I mean, seriously.”
So ludicrous have the clearly exhausted Professor’s scripted utterances become, he recently worked this gem into his remarks.
“Authorities were taking a cautious approach to reopening. Obviously, we do not want to impose things that are excessive, but it’s always under review, because the risk remains until we have run all of this down,” said the Prof.
Let me repeat. “Obviously, we do not want to impose things that are excessive,” he said.
On hearing this from the stage, members of the audience were literally splitting their sides with laughter. Could it be the overworked Prof needs some timeout to listen to some of his more absurd recent statements?
Juxtaposing the two ideas that the government did not wish to adopt excessive measures while locking up the entire population closing schools, businesses, churches, restaurants and cafes really lies at the heart of this hit tragicomedy.
And great (late-breaking) news this weekend, Dan A has recovered and is making a much-anticipated comeback at the end of the month. In a rare moment between medical interventions and TV dinners, Dan let his adoring fans know he’d received tens of thousands of get-well cards, letters and messages.
What better place to display the work of this very surprising number of well-wishers than on the walls, floor and even the ceiling of Dan’s Theatre of the Absurd.
Tickets for July and August are already sold out. Get online quickly and book for the last four months of the year before Dan’s next play ‘locks us up’ in stitches again.
Lucky this is all make-believe. Not even Dan’s most ardent supporters could take this sell-out production seriously. But isn’t it great that Dan does?
John Simpson is a Melbourne company director.
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