21 August 2023

New play based on Black Summer bushfires aims to spark climate change action

| Jarryd Rowley
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theatre production cast holding props

Award-winning playwright Campion Decent’s new play, Unprecedented, which details events from the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires, hits the Wagga Wagga Civic Theatre in September. Photo: Jasper Wood.

Award-winning playwright Campion Decent’s new six-person play detailing the events of the Black Summer bushfires will make its debut at the Wagga Wagga Civic Theatre early next month.

Wodonga-based performing arts company HotHouse Theatre has spent three years developing Unprecedented, which is based on coronial inquiries, testimonials and submissions to the royal commission during the infamous 2019-20 bushfires.

Decent has written the play as a response to the lack of action regarding climate change.

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The play will look to challenge and question audiences about Australia’s relationship with climate and whether or not the country is doing enough to combat climate change.

HotHouse Theatre director and chief executive Karla Conway believes that although the Black Summer bushfire season is now three years behind us, there is a story to be told – not just about the fire, but more broadly, about Australia’s changing relationship with the climate.

“We never had the opportunity to process it properly and recover or use the learnings to be more prepared for the next round of fires,” she said.

The play looks to unpack the events that led to the devastating bushfires and dives into the buzzwords and phrases used by the media and politicians to describe the months-long blazes.

“The word ‘unprecedented’ became the buzzword of the Black Summer fires,” Karla said.

“It’s a scapegoat word that suggests no-one could have conceived this could happen or that we could have been prepared for it.

“We had ample reports and recommendations dating back to 1939, yet we find ourselves grappling with this catastrophe. How did we arrive at this point?”

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The play features six artists, including three from the Riverina – Rachel McNamara, Noel Hodda and Craig Alexander – and Wagga-born-and-bred sound designer Brendon Boney.

“We are committed to championing regional artists, weaving the authentic voices of our people into the very fabric of our plays,” Karla said.

“Our job as a company is first, to entertain our audiences – from game show to vaudeville, verbatim to bouffon, these six incredible actors take on 70 characters to carve a path through the story, helping audiences navigate through this important information that at times feels overwhelming.

“We bring every theatrical trick in the book to shift the audience from a place of knowing to feeling and in doing so, hopefully we inspire them to take action.”

The show’s Civic Theatre run starts on 2 September at 7 pm. Book tickets here.

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