Charlie Ranger and Nicholas Waxman in A Sunburnt History, by Australian Classical Theatre

“It was definitely the most entertaining history lesson I've EVER had!” — Jade Hunter, Blaire Magazine

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A Sunburnt History - The First Fleet

A Sunburnt History was conceived for three reasons: to provide audiences a chance to hold a mirror up to society past and present; to learn more about Australian history; and to offer a fresh perspective and get Aussies doing what they do best—have a good laugh at themselves.

A Sunburnt History

The Story

The greatest single migration the world has ever seen … or a farce from start to finish?

Why is Stevo talking funny? What happens when Davo eats vegetables? And what did they do to poor Timmy Driscoll in those cramped, shared cabins?

Welcome to the world of Captain Arthur Philip, a man vehemently opposed to slavery, with utopian ideas for a new colony … that include wrapping babies in tapioca sacks. No one on this ship knows when a convict has completed their sentence—but they all know the fleet’s destination was the Government’s last resort.

The First Fleet revels in the opportunity to delve into the multitude of disasters that marred the early years of our great nation—the repercussions of which we still feel today. An informative, laugh-out-loud tale that will shed light on how Australia became the nation it is now.

If you think you know your ancestry, think again!

Charlie and Nick on stage

A Sunburnt History


In 2013, Charlie Ranger and Nicholas Waxman—creators of the sellout show A Sunburnt History - The true story of Burke and Wills—returned to the Melbourne International Commedy Festival with their new production of A Sunburnt History - The First Fleet.

Production by Charlie Ranger and Nicholas Waxman, with additional direction by Stewart Morritt.

A Sunburnt History - The First Fleet premiered in 2013 as part of the Melbourne International Commedy Festival. It ran for 12 performances, from 28 March to 21 April.

Upcoming Production

Touring schools from 3–14 March, 2014, in conjunction with RAV’s Education and Families Department, and as part of the VCAA curriculum for theatre studies, Unit 3.

For more information about further performances, please contact us.

A Sunburnt History - the first fleet - ship


Michael Ward, The Herald Sun

I ENJOYED this show ... It’s densely packed with information, well-written, features a pair of fine performances and is impressively directed...

Nick Waxman and Charlie Ranger play more than a dozen characters between them as they recount the roots of Australian convict life.

Waxman’s doddering imbecile Arthur Phillip looms large and is the source of most laughs; he’s central to the narrative amid a gallery of convicts (instantly sounding like nouveau Dave Hugheses the moment they set foot on Australian shores), prostitutes, British royalty, sailors and indigenous Australians.

The show unfolds at a real clip, and no matter how ropey your grasp of early Australian history is, A Sunburnt History is constantly surprising, informative and entertaining.


Jade Hunter, Blaire Magazine

... an extremely clever and entertaining show ...

The storyline of the show is highly informative as it takes a closer look into the story of the first fleet, and it is easy to see just how much research has gone into the show.

Intelligence isn't something that we always associate with comedy shows during the festival, so it was amazing to see good acting skills and intellect combined with the wittiness of the script. ‘Aussie historical blunders are great comedy fodder,’ says Nick about why the show is so well received, ‘also, Aussies can laugh at themselves and we especially enjoy laughing at the English.’

Simple and effective props add to the theme and the different accents and characters are captured brilliantly. The pair are truly an entertaining duo and definitely worth going to see. They also utilise the audience, coming offstage at one point to interact and create that dreaded moment when everybody is thinking, 'please don't single me out!'

It's intelligent comedy, which is incredibly creative and informative, and will make you laugh out loud through the entire act.

‘This show has a clear intention and is designed to get its audience excited about history in general,’ said Nick. ‘We want people to be relaxed and happy. It's a fast and furious 60 minutes and you get lots of info, all of it bizarre and unbelievable. But ALL true!’

It was definitely the most entertaining history lesson I've EVER had!


Jim Schembri, The Herald-Sun

Oh, if only all history lessons were as flat-out entertaining as this whip-smart, razor-sharp version of the controversial Burke and Wills expedition.

The intent is clear: see A Sunburnt History and you'll never look at that City Square statue the same way again. And the show succeeds in spades.

Working at a frenetic pace and without the aid of props or audio-visual aids, Charlie Ranger and Nicholas Waxman are fuelled by a revisionist energy.

Tearing through the heroic Burke and Wills myth with compelling comic ferocity, they leave no room for doubt: Robert O'Hara Burke was an idiot.

Played with a caustic combination of hubris and incompetence by Waxman, Burke led the poorly organised venture to a doom that seemed inevitable.

Though tragic, the pair cast the story as a comic celebration of ineptitude. Taking on multiple roles, they detail the ill-fated venture from financial mismanagement right down to what the camels thought.

Yet while the show is an elongated insult to Burke, it ultimately respects history; the true heroes of the venture all get their due, if a tad too briefly.

Those with long memories might recall that two 1985 films were made on the topic—the bloated, boring Burke and Wills and the comic misfire Wills and Burke.

For the record, what these two do in 50 minutes is better than both.


Merv Collins, The Pun

I loved A Sunburnt History,
A story mad but true,
Of Wills and Burke and dozens more
And a cast of only two!

This is history like you wish they’d taught it at high school. Charlie Ranger and Nicholas Waxman have done the research and tell the story of the disastrous south/north continental expedition with great gusto. The amazing facts come out while the terrifying ineptitude of most concerned is exposed and ridiculed.

The two men play multiple parts, switching at the end of a sentence from one (sometimes quite dubious) accent to another. I loved the pantomime moment when ‘Burke,’ who is momentarily playing someone else, tells his off-sider (who is never ‘Burke’) to “Bring me Burke!”

The silence and double-take are comedy gold as the audience gradually realise it can’t be done. ‘Burke’ is already there, but he ain’t ‘Burke’ at that moment.

‘I can get you King, I can get you Becker; I can’t get you Burke,’ says the off-sider.

The script is brilliant, the constantly changing vignettes are seamless, the characters are excellent, some of the accents are almost believable and the camels keep talking as they masticate. And, in a Comedy Festival first, no four letter words were deemed necessary to the making of an hour of intelligent humour.

Relative newcomers, Ranger and Waxman are a great addition to the comedy scene with a tale and presentation unlike anything else in the Festival. The future is very bright for this duo even if our heroes of the past, as they portray them, are anything but!


Charlie Ranger Nicholas Waxman

About the Creators

Charlie Ranger

For several years, Charlie Ranger has been writing, directing, performing in and producing shows for the Melbourne Commedy Festival, Melbourne’s biggest festival.

As a performer he trained at UBAA, achieving a Bachelor of Arts in Acting. Professionally he has worked alongside such companies as the Australian Shakespeare Company, Two Straws Productions and Burberry Productions for TV. In recent years, he created Long Range Theatre, a company committed to producing independent Melbourne theatre.

A Sunburnt History was the second production presented at the Commedy Festival, following It’s all fun and games … (until someone gets hurt).

Nicholas Waxman

Nicholas Waxman teamed up with Charlie in A Sunburnt History and It’s all fun and games … (until someone gets hurt) at the Melbourne Commedy Festival.

Working as the Artistic Director of Wax Acts Theatre Company has seen Waxman write, produce, direct and perform more than ten independent shows. These shows have helped build Wax Acts Theatre Company into a local brand that communicates directly with its audience.

His devotion to comedy has been public knowledge for years having written and directed shows for Witches in Britches theatre restaurant, Flim Flams entertainment, Co-Hosting and producing Weird Wonderful World for SYN radio to mention but a few.

In recent years, Nick has turned his talents to teaching drama to young children, giving him the perfect basis to develop A Sunburnt History’s educational components.