‘37’ // Queensland Theatre

Kicking goals with their latest season ’37’, Queensland Theatre has presented a powerhouse production that has made a triumphant mark.

Set against the backdrop of the fictional Cutting Cove Currawongs, ’37’ follows cousins Sonny and Jayma as they navigate the rough-and-tumble of AFL dreams and reality. The narrative, rich with cultural and sporting sybolism, is as much about football as it is about each players’ quest for personal integrity and community pride.

Written by Nathan Maynard and directed by Isaac Drandic, ’37’ not only revisits a pivotal moment in AFL history – the war cry of Adam Goodes – but also sparks a broader dialogue on racism within Australian sports and culture. Maynard smartly uses the AFL setting not only as a stage for physical drama, but as a metaphor about bigger societal issues, with the text tackling these issues on identity, race, reconciliation and violence. Beyond this, ’37’ is extremely relatable, right down to the tone and language used. The script masterfully prompts audiences to reflect introspectively, and in turn, find their position on the team, especially when it comes to taking sides.

Featuring an ensemble of 10 performers, ’37’ is both physically demanding and moving. The action mirrors a footy match, with edge-of-your-seat highs and nail-biting lows. The stakes rise, all the way to the pinultimate grand final, and the ensemble work together to build this tension: it’s palpable. Under  Drandic’s direction and the co-choregraphy by Waangenga Blanco, the movement choreography  blends athletic prowess with cultural dance, enhancing the synergies between football and Indigenous culture (like the coming together of a corroroboree to a community supporting a footy team, or even the boys in the locker room). There’s a flow to Drandic’s direction that allows the scenes to transition from all together to isolation. This is quite hypnotising.

The connections between marngrook and Australian rules football are also highlighted, bringing out the rich history of football in pre-colonial times. This further cements the values and origin of the story and game, and begs audiences to consider what, why and who are the footy players playing for?

Production design also enhances the storytelling, allowing scenes to travese across different landscapes and time. The evocative sound design by James Henry with Associate Sound Designer Wil Hughes, places audiences right in the heart of the action. There’s a mixtape of contemporary Australian songs that aid the score of the play, one of the nicest touches is the audiences walking out to an Indigenous version of John Farnham’s “Your The Voice”, adding to the visceral impact. Lighting design by Ben Hughes subtly accentuates the emotional pitch of the play and accents the slow-mo scenes against the faster dynamic training scenes.

Set design and costume design by Dale Ferguson semiotically layered the production with extra detail. Not only are the uniforms black and white, a nod to the currawong bird, but they also represented the plays’ thematics on race. Personal touches to each outfit made the players unique to each other however, right down to the individual sneakers. Set was transformative and minimalist, with a vast open space to play with, set upon sand/dirt-like turf, which allowed a symbolic connection to country. Long metal benches were often maneuvered to transform the place to a different setting: the locker room, the bar, inside/outside, etc.  

To note individual performances would go against the ensemble nature of the production, which wouldn’t have been a success without the entire performance of the casting team. Collectively the ensemble included Syd Brisbane (as The General and team coach), Ngali Shaw and Tibian Wyles (as cousins Jayma and Sonny), Eddie Orton (as the controversial Woodsy), Ben O’Toole (as team captain, Joe), Costa D’Angelo (as the Italian Ant), Thomas Larkin (as the coaches son, GJ), Anthony Standish (as the second-in-charge, Dazza), Mitchell Brotz (as the larrikin Gorby), and Samuel Buckley (as the supportive, Apples).

’37’ scores a goal by making a significant addition to the canon of Australian sporting stories on stage. For those who appreciate theatre that makes both a social point and an emotional impact, ’37’ is not just a play, it’s a game-change. Carn Queensland Theatre!

’37’ performs at Queensland Theatre until Saturday 4 May 2024. For more information and tickets, visit: Queensland Theatre | 37

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