A rollicking bush musical comedy set in a small Victorian country town in 1935.
When the local Football Club President (Paddy King) dies, a power play emerges between Sunshine Logan (the publican) and Windy Regan (the shopkeeper) over who will be holding the wake. Simple mined Chookie, cunning Siggie, practical Chloe and busy body sisters 3AR and 3LO all get caught up in the shenanigans. And Mick (Windy’s son) just happens to be in love with Molly (Sunshine’s daughter).
CHOOKIE: somewhat odd in appearance, with behaviour to match, eighteen years old
OLD CHOOKIE: a mediocre country and western singer, Chookie fifty years on
SIGGIE: a thin, sly alcoholic who’s lost his left arm. About forty, but looks fifty
SUNSHINE LOGAN: Windy’s opposite number, either identical or completely different
from him, about forty-five to fifty
WINDY REAGAN: Sunshine’s opposite, about forty-five to fifty
3LO: a kindly old gossip, 3AR’s almost identical sister
3AR: also a gossip
CHLOE GREENE: either a looming presence or a sparrowhawk of a woman,
Chookie’s mother, between forty and forty-five
MICK: Windy’s son; well-built and well-hung, twenty years old
MOLLY: Sunshine’s daughter; good-looking,with lots of sparkle,
sex appeal, and a touch of the hoyden, eighteen or nineteen
BIDDY: Mick’s sister; a rather mean-faced, cantankerous gossip
with a high-pitched voice, sixteen or seventeen
MRS BRIDGET REGAN: Windy’s Wife, Mick and Biddy’s mother,, tough and hard-
working, forty to forty- five
MRS POLLY LOGAN: Sunshine’s wife and Molly’s mother; a kindly, uncertain, hard-
working creature, forty to forty- five
FATHER DUFFY: patriarchal, with a pronounced Irish accent
JACK’S VOICE: a nasty, insinuating caricature of a country and
western singer, Chookie’s id
SPARGO: your typical country undertaker, either solemn and dour or cheery and obliging
ERNIE FERGUSON: a protestant young adult
HAMISH FERGUSON: his brother
MRS KING: Paddy King’s widow
AMBROSE: Chloe Greene’s rooster, a ‘feathered testicle’ with sharp alert eyes
CASSANDRA: an old chook ‘too old for that sort of nonsense’
Plus several old boilers whose laying days will soon be over
The play takes place at various locations in the small, rural community of She-Oak Creek.
The emphasis should be on simplicity and suggestion rather than any attempt at verisimilitude.
Orchestration: Piano; Guitar; Bass and Solo Violin. (Can be performed with as little as solo piano)
Bob Herbert, Playwright, was also an experienced actor, stage manager, stage electrician, stage director and was Theatre Manager at the University of New England, Armidale. His plays include An Isolated Case of Heterechromia, A Man of Respect, Sex and Violets; and The Girl With The Odd-Colored Eyes. In 1979, his No Names…No PackDrill shared the first prize of $7,500 in the W.A. 150th Anniversary Playwriting Competition, was produced by the New England Theatre Company, by the Sydney Theatre Company at the Opera House Drama Theatre and the Theatre Royal. Productions in Queensland, Perth and on ABC radio followed. The screen adaptation has been released under the title Rebel. He is also Louis Nowra’s uncle.
Sadly, Bob died in 2000. All enquiries regarding his plays should be taken up with Louis Nowra, through Currency Press.
The Playwright’s Program Note from the Stables Production.
As a boy I spent most of my holidays in a small Irish-Australian hamlet where my grandparents owned the local pub and ran a small mixed farm. The hamlet “sat” for the portrait of She Oak Creek, just as some of its inhabitants “sat” for the characters, though many of these were based on outside sitters. The events of the play are wholly imaginary … well, mostly.
I have affectionate but tough minded memories of that small settlement on a picturesque creek in Victoria where most of the scattered residents were some sort of relative, by family or by courtesy. Affectionate memories, because at was the magical land of care-free school holidays – my memories are all of sunny days. Tough-minded memories, because I’m a comedy writer who considers the tragic view of life to be anti-life, and because tough-minded is the best protection the writer has from the dry rot of sentimentality.
So I hope those of my relatives who possibly resent my exploitation of their past will forgive me. It’s my past too.
As for you dear playgoer, I urge you not to make the journey to She Oak Creek looking for wit and sophistication. Try Paris or London for those. What I hope you will find instead is good old Australian waggery and bush cunning.
Arthur Calwell once bitterly denounced us as “a nation of hill-billies”. He was right, and he said it to wound. But I have chosen to accept the slur as a compliment. Our bush Anglo-Celtic culture is still what being an Australian is fundamentally about. By all means let us overlay it with cosmopolitan sophistication, but don’t let us ever ignore the spring from whence the river runs … the source of the old certainties that can help us through the days of doubt.
My Literary influences are many and varied. I’d like to think that they show. There’s Menander, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Moliere, Sheridan, Austen, Peacock, Gogol, Wilde, Dylan Thomas, and our own Joseph Furphy. But my major influence by far is the Australian writer whom I most admire, Steele Rudd. I nourish the hope that in some small way The Last Wake is adding to that bush genre which he established with such rich understated authority.
I hope you enjoy the fun at She-oak Creek, but I also hope you will discover or re-discover your cultural roots. And this hope includes all Australians, no matter what your ehnic origins. Our civilization is by definition a product of the cities where it is being slowly stitched together, a coat of many colours. But our culture is still out there in the bush … so come on back … come on back to … She-Oak Creek.
An explanation of the Lingo used in the play
(taken from the programme of Boilerhouse Theatre Company, Sunbury)
Just ‘n case Youse wanna no.
Frippence is 3 pennys
Tin Lizzie is a Model T Ford
Sevenpence ‘a penny is 7 and a half pennys
Wyeless is a radio
Dingaling is a person who is a sandwich short of a picnic, also known as Drongo
Diff is a differential in a car.
Dunny is an outside toilet
Sanitary Trench / Sentry Trench is an open trench to allow the effluent to flow away from the dunny
Kow-Tow is to bow and scrape to someone
Conner-Sewers Drop is a very nice drink
Yeller is chicken or coward
Nicky Whoop, Scarper means to run away
Hit the Dust means to run away
Lady’s Waist is a 7 oz glass of beer
Burgoo is porridge
Shandy is beer with lemonade
Bumpers are cigarette butts
Cloaca is the chook’s rear end
Five Quid is 5 pounds (about $10)
Fair Dinkum is absolute truth
Duffing Sheep is stealing sheep
Swaggy is a wonderer who carries a swag
In the Chair is to shout a round of drinks
Micks is a name given to Catholics
All Piss ‘n Wind is some who is all talk
Keep Cockatoo is to keep a lookout
Pox Doctors Clerk is to be overdressed
Bonzer means goos ot grouse
Do Your Block is to lose your temper