Mr Stuart’s distant range
Darcy O’Shea @ Ayers House Museum – Loft
7:00pm, Thu 12 Mar 2015
There was something utterly beguiling about the précis for Mr Stuart’s distant range; it conjured ideas of deep and rarely-exposed history, and was the type of blurb that would totally suck my eighty-year-old father in (if he ever looked at the Fringe Guide with anything other than disgust). But whilst it may have been listed in the “Theatre” section of the Fringe Guide, what Darcy O’Shea delivers here is a lecture; a lecture peppered with comedic and political barbs, yes, but a lecture nonetheless.
Delivered over a slideshow of images, O’Shea introduces us to the titular John McDouall Stuart, who spent a good deal of his life exploring inland Australia. Stuart’s own diary extracts are pre-recorded (and also voiced – with Scottish accent – by O’Shea, complete with page-turning “sound effects” as he leafed through the readings), but rather than triggering each of the recordings manually via his laptop, O’Shea just left gaps for his live monologue… leading to moments where the voice of Stuart would interrupt O’Shea mid-bluster.
His topics are wide-ranging, but never stretched: whilst Stuart’s travels form the core of his material, there’s also forays into grammar (the argument surrounding the lack of apostrophe in “Ayers Rock”) and Terra Nullius. And the latter triggers a lot of political snark from O’Shea: he’s unashamedly pro-aborigine when referring to Stolen Land, and refers to white colonisation as “the first boat people” (which then resulted in more anti-Abbott snark).
O’Shea certainly knows his stuff, and is unafraid to mix the facts of history with the opinion of politics; these moments, where he would get genuinely riled up and venture off-script (only to be interrupted by one of Stuart’s diary entries) were both interesting and fun… though occasionally a little heavy-handed. As a result, the historical content of the show was anything but dry… and that made for a really engaging show.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) March 12, 2015