The State Theatre Company of South Australia
Royalty Theatre
Until 19 Jun 2021

Review by Janice Bailey

After the tremendous success of “Euphoria”, State Theatre Company has followed up with another robust and highly entertaining drama, also set in a country town. This time the theme is inequality and highlights the reasons that inequality still exists – often because women are unwilling to disturb the status quo, especially in the confines of a small country town.

“The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race”, written by Melanie Tait, is real and happens every year in Melanie’s hometown. As is often the case a very serious and important message usually has more impact if it is presented through the prism of comedy and this is definitely true regarding the topic of equality, especially when related to pay rates.

Sarah Brokensha is outstanding in the role of Nikki Armstrong. Nikki has won the women’s section of the Appleton Potato Race for several years and knows that she is almost 100% sure of pocketing the Ladies prize and has never questioned the fairness of the discrepancy in prize money for the male winner. At first she is against any change until she comes to the realization that it isn’t and has never been fair.

Anna Steen as Penny Armstrong is excellent as the catalyst for the campaign for equality, returning to her hometown as the local GP and finding that some things have changed while others haven’t. When she finds out that the women’s prize for the Potato Race is a fifth of that bestowed on the men she is outraged and sets out to change this ridiculous inequality. She is not quite prepared for the resistance from other women in the community.

Susi Youssef, as a refugee, Rania, plays her role perfectly as an observer and someone new and different in a country community – her comments are humorous with a depth of reality and truth. Barb and Bev, played impeccably by Carmel Johnson and Genevieve Mooy, represent the Traditionalists who do not want to rock the boat and are the only active members of the Show Committee. They are a tour de force.

Director Elena Carapetis describes Melanie Tait’s play as a love letter to her hometown, to women, and to the potato. It is definitely all that – and more. Designer Kathryn Sprout, Lighting Designer Nic Mollison, Composer and Sound Designer Andrew Howard, Accent Coach Jennifer Innes, Stage Manager Gabrielle Hornardt and Assistant Stage Manager Jennifer King have all fulfilled their important roles to bring this heartwarming and delightful play to fruition.