Melbourne Fringe – Wool! A History of Australia’s Wool Industry: The Musical

MF Wool Kit RichardsWool! A History of Australia’s Wool Industry: The Musical seeks to tell of the pioneering efforts of John Macarthur and the pivotal role of his wife Elizabeth.

Although not in the paper Fringe guide, the web version says “If you’re a fan of Hamilton or Russell Coight, then you’ll be a fan of Wool!” – That might be enough to decide if this is a show for “ewe”, er, you.

The show’s structure would see writer / performer, Kit Richards, relate some events from the lives of John and Elizabeth, then hit us with a tune. Rather than being a musical, it is more of a song cycle where the songs don’t always advance the action.

At times we might feel we’re hearing something similar to what we’ve heard in a past song or just been told. Also, the songs (one of three distinct tempos) themselves get to feel quite samey, possibly because most only feature Richards’ voice. When pianist Kyria Webster added her voice to the mix, this brought some welcome variety.

Richards admitted that the show was only “about 60% historically accurate”. Her need to invent a strong story arc for Elizabeth shows this has too much rewriting of history to be a historical account. However, I did learn a few interesting historical tidbits.

This often felt like a long hour. Richards’ banter between songs could have waffly irrelevances, be strewn with “like”s and “um”s, and she lost her place a few times. A lights-down “Intermission” felt like a very studenty extravagance. This work would benefit from tighter banter and having a more focused narrative.

The original thinking in choosing this subject matter and effort in doing the necessary reading are both laudable. I do hope that Richards will seek to get a better return from this by a clear-eyed assessment of Wool!’s strengths and weaknesses.


Wool! A History of Australia’s Wool Industry: The Musical
Son of Loft – Lithuanian Club, 44 Errol Street North Melbourne
Performance: Saturday 15 September 2018 – 6:30pm
Season continues to September 2018
Information and Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au

Image: Kit Richards stars in Wool! A History of Australia’s Wool Industry: The Musical (supplied)

Review: Jason Whyte

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