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Ginger Mick at Gallipoli: Review

Australian Classical Theatre - a scene from Ginger Mick at Gallipoli

Kate Herbert, The Herald Sun

It is no easy task to effectively transform verse from the page into theatrical form. Petty Traffikers successfully adapt some of C.J. Dennis’s World War One verses, The Moods of Ginger Mick, into rambunctious physical theatre and people the stage with a parade of characters.

Ginger Mick at Gallipoli, with a cast of four under Stewart Morritt’s slick direction, vibrates with masculine energy, larrikin humour and Aussie slang. At the centre of a parade of iconic, early 20th century Australian men is Ginger Mick (Joe Clements), a cheerful, roguish petty crim and rabbitto from Footscray who writes home to his mate (Bruce Kerr) from the battle front in Turkey.

Dennis’s verse is translated into a swift-moving theatrical text with idiomatic dialogue and narration divided amongst cast members. Songs of the era—Tipperary, Kiss Me Goodnight Sergeant Major and Siegfried Line—are interpolated between verses and accompanied by lively choreography.

The production captures the era in a contemporary style, amplifying the horrors and mateship of war through pathos and roughhouse humour

The cast is inventive, compelling and enthusiastic, their performances vital and visceral. Their timing is impeccable and they take us on a rollicking ride. The mood shifts effortlessly, with broad slapstick and hilarious characterisations as well as emotional and lyrical reflections upon the nature of war.

The design is simple. Found objects clutter the space, an upstage wire fence bears the titles of each poem, a broom becomes a rifle, a jacket implies a uniform.

Clements captures the gutsy, street-wise rascal Ginger Mick, making him lovable and loyal with a glint of humour in his eye. Other cast members (Morritt, Kerr, Brendan O’Connor) play multiple roles with aplomb. Morritt’s slow and gentle giant, Craig from Queensland, is a delight as is his punch-drunk boxer from Sydney.

O’Connor is versatile and physically adroit playing Mick’s unlikely mate, Keith the Toff, and the weasel-like Smith from the streets of Collingwood. Kerr is dignified and composed as both the narrator and Trent, a silent and educated digger.

Ginger Mick, without sentimentality or jingoism, embodies the genuine meaning of Aussie mateship, courage and the raw quality of the Australian soldier at war.