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Hunters Hill Theatre: The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race - Review by Lucy Giles

I’ve been living in Hunters Hill for just under 3 years now so when I saw there was a theatre company in my area performing, I jumped on the chance to see what they’re made of. I’ve been staring at a marketing sign hung over the fence of the Gladesville Road Bridge for the past couple of weeks trying to figure out what this show is about: a picture of a justice of the peace statue with a scale in her hands that are weighing spuds… Not really anything to do with a race… Consider my curiosity piqued, as should yours.

The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race is a tale of humanity in a typical Australian backyard country town. The show follows Penny as she comes back to live in Appleton after finishing her degree in medicine in Sydney. She discovers that the annual potato race event is substantially mismatched in prize money between the men’s and women’s divisions and rallies to raise money for it to be equalised. With themes of feminism and generational differences, this show is a charming and wonderful production that shows how people can pursue their passions and fight for what’s right.

Caroline Lloyd plays Penny, the feminist lesbian who fights for her community to change. Lloyd is quirky, realistic and a strong lead in this show. I also feel for her as has to wear a moonboot for the majority of the production, but she navigates this well. On the opposite end, the seemingly antagonist is Bev, played by Linda Young. Young did a great job playing Bev’s arch in the play. At the beginning, I didn’t like Bev at all, but by the end I felt so much sympathy for her. Young’s depiction is gruff and grumpy, but ultimately honest and a delight to watch.

Moja Band plays the beautiful Rania, an immigrant who’d settled in Appleton to make a better life for the sake of her children. Band is gorgeous in her delivery, graceful in her movements and perhaps is the most convincing actor on stage. I’m not sure if the accent Band uses is her natural one, but if not, she sure convinced me. Top notch!

But my favourite characters in this production have to be Nikki (Tonia Davis) and Barb (Judy Jankovics). Davis brings Nikki to life with her tenacious spirit and True Blue Aussie demeanour. Nikki is confident in her world, so understandably upset when Penny comes to try to change it. Davis walks on the fence of arrogance and naïve with Nikki so you don’t fully know what to conclusively think of her until the end. This balancing act reflects Davis’ skill and in my opinion she’s performed wonderfully. Barb is somewhat the opposite of Nikki in that she’s sweet and generous. Jankovics brings a gentle and adorable nature to the role of Barb, nailing the “cool aunt” feel and being the centre of the best scene in this show.

The simple set, use of props and limited quick changes really reflects on the incredible design of this show, and that’s all thanks to the direction from Jennifer Willison. She’s made a production that is simply a reflection of humanity, something that is rare to see these days. This show is empowering, charming and relaxing. Opening night had a couple of prop mishaps of course, but I just found them amusing. Case in point: Bev went for a run around the stage and ended up stepping on hair clip. A piece of it ended up ricocheting off my chest and honestly I was impressed with how far the piece had flown as I was 2 rows away from the stage. Bev must’ve been really truly running!

In conclusion, well done HHT. 3 out of 5 teased hairdos, moonboots and Go-Fund-Me pages Photos courtesy of Dan Ferris

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