True crime meets fiction
By Narelle Wood
Meeka is a tale of fraud, deceit, arsen and a brutal attempt at murder told with all the straight-talking humour you would expect from a play set in the outback.
The storyline focuses on a local school pricipal John (Kevin Summers) who is trying to do the best he can with his small isolated community school. However dealing with budgetary issues becomes a bigger burden than he had bargained for, especially when the city folk in the department send auditor Kevin (Keith Brockett) up to Meeka to check the school’s finances. John is not fooled by the apparent routineness of the audit and is determined to watch the Kevin’s every move. To complicate issues John’s relationship with his staff is on tenter hooks for a whole range of reasons, including issues of favouritism and power plays, that potentially implicate his staff in the alleged fraud. When Kevin arrives all seems to be going well, but bit by bit things slowly start to unravel ending with Kevin’s head blending profusely, Kevin claiming John tried to kill him, and John professing self defence. Under normal circumstances that would be a spoiler, however Meeka is based on a true crime, so the focus is not so much on the murder attempt but the events leading up to the heinous crime and who exactly is responsible.
The cast is full of wonderful Aussie archetypes: the straight-talking, no-holds-barred woman Eileen (Kelly Nash); the quintessential bloke PE teacher Tom (Liam Gillespie); the uptight English teacher Tiffany (Christina Costigan); and the primary school teacher Bec (Claire Pearson) with a hint of rebellion behind her caring demeanour. It is superbly cast, each performance complimenting Dan Walls‘ dialogue which is witty, and generally well paced. There was quite a colourful array of explicit language used throughout, sitting naturally alongside the very Australian twangs and colloquialisms of many of the characters. Under Shaun Kingma‘s direction there is complete authenticity to each of the performances, and the transitions between scenes are fast and make great use of the large space and simple sets.
If there was one thing that perhaps didn’t work as well for me was the middle section; it seemed to lag a little in comparison to the snappiness of the beginning and end. That aside, Meeka is a strangely funny take on some very dark subject matter; what makes the narrative work is the humour comes from the characters and not the situation. An exceptionally well-written and executed play.
Venue: Fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season: Until 14th February, 8pm, 3pm Sundays
Tickets: Full $38