Every word uttered within Federal parliament by politicians is recorded for posterity in Hansard, the in-house publisher of the nation’s body politic. Hansard is, if you like, a record of Australia talking to and about itself. It is at times dry and tedious, thrilling and even dangerous. Above all else, it is us — or those elected to represent us — talking about us.
The Hansard Monologues is a marriage of theatre, the form, and politics, the content. By drawing on the skills of reportage, editing, performance and narrative, the HanMos is a play — a performed theatrical experience — that like journalism seeks to illuminate and curate Australia’s national dialogue.
The HanMos, written by Katie Pollock (playwright) and Paul Daley (journalist/writer), started life in my head as a ‘what if’. To be frank, I was thinking about vaginas at the time, more specifically the Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, an intimate and insightful theatrical experience if there ever was.
I jumped first to the idea of having politicians perform the words of Federal parliament and then, on realising that politicians would be hopeless at speaking any other words than there own, switched to idea that actors could play multiple characters. Duh, of course they can, that’s what actors do. Thus the HanMos were born.
Across July/August, the first Hansard Monologues, based on the proceedings of the 43rd Federal parliament, were performed in Sydney (at the Seymour Centre and the Casula Powerhouse), Wollongong (Merrigong Theatre) and Canberra (Museum of Australian Democracy).
The challenge was to make that interesting and for that full credit must go to the writers, Pollock and Daley, the director, Timothy Jones, and of course the actors David Roberts, Tony Llewellyn-Jones and Camilla Ah Kin.
Tim Jones and I ended up as co-producers, though to be fair much of the grunt work was done by Tim and his team at Seymour Centre, Sydney. I did however keep one part of the dream alive: at the end of most of the nine performances, a real MPs took to the stage to do a Q and A with the audience. Art, life and politics collided at that moment.
We (Daley, Pollock and Fray) are working on HanMos v2 under commission from the Museum of Australian Democracy and Seymour. The production is planned for the second half 2016.
It is likely to feature the prime minister Tony Abbott (below right) and his opposition Bill Shorten (bottom left), though as we discovered in writing and rewriting the first HanMos much can change in politics. By the time play goes on, we may be looking at different men or women.