It’s no secret that South Australia has some incredible talent within its borders, and during Fringe, many of those talents are on display.
We at The Upside News love to support local talent, which is why we spoke to 16 people on our 16 for ’16 day; one of those being playwright and reviewer, Peter Maddern.
He has written a political satire about the role the media and politics play in distributing information to the masses, and it’s making its debut at this year’s Fringe Festival.
Directed by Matthew Vecchio, Peter says That Siege in Adelaide is loosely based around events like the 2014 Rodney Clavell saga and similar newsworthy happenings.
“It’s a satire that focuses on the media, politicians, the contest the channels have for ratings, and the coverage of major events that can often grip you,” Peter says.
“That’s everything from bushfires to sieges, and even the bombings in Paris, where people tune in and are gripped by what’s going on. Part of it is also a disconnect that exists between what the media presents to you as so called ‘continuing coverage’ and what is often very sparsely populated pieces of facts and information that comes through to them that they relay to us.
“In particular, during the siege that happened around 18 months ago in Adelaide, I happened to be in town at the time, wandering through Victoria Square and really noted the media pack was there wandering around waiting for something to happen; but at home, we might have been tuned in and gripped to hear every new detail that was happening as it was occurring.”
There’s no doubt that the siege in Adelaide he refers to was a very serious event, with several workplaces being locked down, including schools; one school in particular had the gunman traverse through as he fled from police, resulting in terrified students, staff and parents.
However, Peter says the play serves to make commentary on the responsibility of the media and the rights of the consumer, rather than send up the event itself.
“There’s no question that to be involved with those events would be quite terrifying, and the most extreme discomfort one could imagine; but this show is not about that particular event as such,” he says.
“It’s about media coverage. It’s more about the media trying to interview children to drum up content, than it is about anything to do with the people caught up in it. This is not about terrorism, it’s about the coverage that goes on to keep us on the hook as viewers, and about people who see that coverage as an opportunity to promote their own position whether overtly or otherwise.”
The play is set out as a series of interviews with a narrative running through it, and a lesson learned at the end.
“It takes you through the coverage as soon as it breaks on television and is a series of interviews with people who might be involved: the police, the Premier, the leader of the opposition, and people who own businesses in the area who got caught up in it all,” Peter says.
“It’s a series of interviews with a little bit of a story around the two main ‘on the ground’ journalists who, at the end, question what their role is as journalists. Are they there to get the facts and present the facts and get the news across, or are they caught up in a broader game of the networks competing for ratings?”
But despite the seriousness of the content, Peter Maddern wants people to leave the theatre with a smile, and something to think about.
“The main message is not to take too seriously what we’re told, and to be mindful of the manipulation and opportunism that goes on both by the media and the people who take those opportunities to put their faces on television, be available for interviews and pass their own views by taking advantage of those sorts of occasions,” he says.
“I hope when people come along, they’ll have a good laugh. I hope they enjoy themselves and leave with a smile on their faces. It’s a contemporary South Australian political satire, written, cast and produced locally.”
That Siege in Adelaide is playing from February 23 until March 5 at the Bakehouse Theatre. Book your tickets through Fringetix.
By Libby Parker
Libby Parker is a journalist, teacher and life enthusiast.
You can follow her on Twitter at @upsidenews_lib